Patrick Witwicki holds up prizes and goodies available at the AFFNO online auction and the 2021 version of Sugarshack. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Patrick Witwicki holds up prizes and goodies available at the AFFNO online auction and the 2021 version of Sugarshack. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

AFFNO Northwest festivals have a COVID-19 approach

Online auction, festival food lottery, and virtual concert to raise funds for AFFNO

March is the month for Association des Francophones et Francophiles du Nord-Ouest (AFFNO) to be sweetening things up with the organization’s annual Sugarshack festival in Prince Rupert, the Francophone festivals in Kitimat and Smithers, as well as an online auction for all regions, Patrick Witwicki executive director said.

Festivals and events will take on different forms this year such as an auction, a food lottery and a virtual concert amidst COVID-19, Witwicki said. Health restrictions combined with fiscal year-end requirements do not allow for the planning and hosting of in-person events such as the scrumptious french cultural celebrations.

“Basically everything is happening in March. We are just tired of postponing, postponing, postponing — at some point, you have to do something,” Witwicki said.

That ‘something’ starts with an online auction commencing March 15 and running until midnight on March 26. More than 10 B.C. artists have donated works to be sold as part of the fundraising endeavour, as well as a basket containing more than 15 different artists’ work.

With AFFNO being non-profit some funding is conditional on the organization holding at least one fundraiser per year or the money has to be returned. Witwicki said because the murder mystery dinner usually held each year in October and attracts participants from all over the northwest, as well as Sugarshack and the Francophone Festivals which can not be run, a different approach to fundraising has been required.

Witwicki said when the festivals were originally postponed back in December 2020 until the end of March the hope was that restrictions would have changed. AFFNO planned much smaller ticket-based events, but even now even those are not possible, he said.

Instead of the food festivals, a lottery idea is being implemented for each Prince Rupert, Kitimat, and Smithers. Terrrace residents are also welcomed to participate. Families are invited to enter their names into a lottery draw where 40 tickets will be pulled for each region. Winners will be able to pick up the french tourtiere ( a Quebecois meat pie) from a location near them. Additionally, the first five names drawn will also win a sugar pie. Everyone who has entered will have their names entered for the grand prize draw on March 28 which may include numerous prize packs and the Sugarshack moose.

“For entries, they have to include their name, phone number and address in an email to,” Witwicki said. “And they have to put ‘Northwest festivals’ or if they are Francophone ‘Festivals du Nord-Ouest’ in the subject line. We will accept AFFNO Festival as well.”

All entries must be in by March 24.

“We are including the entire northwest because we are a regional association. We care about our care about the Northwest, we care about our towns. Hopefully, this will fire people up for Saturday, March 27, to watch our live virtual concert on our Facebook page starting at 7 p.m. starring Manitoba musician Jocelyne Baribeau.”

K-J Millar | Journalist
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