~By Quinn Bender
The City of Prince Rupert will not pay for a Snowbirds air show this summer. The decision is a big blow to the region’s hope of finally seeing a performance by the Air Force’s renowned aerobatics squadron, following last year’s sudden cancellation due to bad weather.
The air show’s organizing body, the Snowbirds Committee, asked the City for a Community Enhancement Grant of $15,000 to $20,000 to cover expenses such as administrative costs, insurance and pilots’ accommodation. But council could not justify the expense at a time when other community groups have seen their funding denied or cut.
“It’s not that I’m saying having the Snowbirds come isn’t a great opportunity,” said Councillor Anna Ashley.
“It’s just that we’re not, in my opinion, in great financial shape… To say we’re going to spend $15,000 – 20,000 on a one-day event when we have groups that do things throughout the entire year—I’ll have a hard time [with that].”
It was noted the City last year granted $20,000 in funding for the air show. Of that amount $11,000 was spent in preparations, but the highly-anticipated and well-attended event was cancelled just 30 minutes before takeoff.
Defeated in a 4-2 vote, councillors Gina Garon and Nelson Kinney voted in favour granting funds. Garon rejected the waste-of-money argument, saying the national pride the Snowbirds instill would in turn be a boost for community pride. She feared the Snowbirds’ offer to perform will not come around again for many years.
“The last time they were here was [many] years ago,” she said.
“It’s money well spent… If we said no to this I don’t think very many people in the community would be very happy about it.”
Crystal Lorette, the Snowbirds Committee co-chair, told The Prince Rupert Northern View she’s disappointed council turned down the funding, but the committee is determined, and will now seek corporate sponsorship to host the air show.
“Financially, it’s a tricky situation,” she said.
“We’re going to have the show at the Rotary Waterfront Park, over the water, so you can’t really sell any tickets to generate revenue.”
According to Lorette, the Snowbirds have also agreed to help where they can. If they were to book another Prince Rupert show, and bad weather again kept their planes grounded, they would have funds in place to stay the night and try to fly the next day.