- Our Town
Zombies to be this year’s Bowfest theme
Watch out! At the end of this summer, the island will be inviting the attention of the undead as “Zombies” has been selected as the theme for the 2013 Bowfest.
The popularity of zombies also inspires the topic for the emergency preparedness program in British Columbia and Yvonne McSkimming, chair of the Bowfest board, believes that the overlap will be beneficial for both initiatives.
“Bowfest can help to promote preparedness,” she said. “And hopefully we can also attract some additional funding.”
McSkimming is at the Bowen Island Community School kitchen and works steadily during the interview.
On this Thursday, the tireless volunteer is preparing food for a school lunch as well as a Legion dinner. She has already baked a number of trays of chocolate chip cookies and scoops out perfect portions for two more.
BICS, she believes, is the hub of the community and would serve as a gathering place in case disaster strikes.
“We have to make sure that the [emergency preparedness] kits are up to snuff,” she says. “This is important.”
The school lunch program is a good example of effective volunteerism, according to McSkimming. Together with the other Bowfest board members, she aims to run Bowfest more effectively. “At the school lunch, the parents come and volunteer,” she explained. “We’ll provide a nutritious lunch for the kids at a low cost to families. And at the end of the year, we have around $20,000 raised for needed school resources.”
The popular end-of-summer festival should be similar, McSkimming believes, and generate more income. What is needed are shifts and improvements that can make a big difference for the operation of the island’s non-profit organizations and community groups. To achieve a bigger impact and greater financial success, the Bowfest board is proposing a few changes.
One of the suggestions is to make a more coordinated effort. The Bowfest board envisions that the charities sign up and send in their volunteers to help with manning the gates, concession, displays etc.. and all the proceeds are divvied up between those involved in a fair manner.
“The ability for fundraising is becoming more and more limited and resources are depleted,” McSkimming says, adding that the availability of provincial and federal grants has already been diminishing over the last few years.
“It’s about going back to Bowfest’s roots of engaging the community,” she said. “Instead of grappling and competing with one another, I want to see if we can coordinate and organize something that could provide a sustainable alternative.”
“Charities need to think about sustainability to keep the foundation of their services intact,” suggests McSkimming, who is currently working on her PhD on volunteerism. “We have 30 or so non-profits on the island that are always approaching the same people and companies. It gets tiresome trying to keep up because the need is endless and charities don’t often work collaboratively together on the island,” she said.
Bowfest, McSkimming believes, has a lot of potential for growth. “A good example is the Saturna festival,” she said. “It’s an established festival that has been running for 62 years and they are raising between $40,000 and $60,000 a year for their non-profits. We are not talking about small change - those kinds of amounts could mean a roof for the Red Church or a year’s worth of supply for the Food Bank.” She has heard that the festival is so successful that BC Ferries adds an additional run and is said to hold the ferry for festival goers at the end of the day.
Growing the festival could take time but something that can be done right away is to limit expenses, McSkimming says. “One of the ways to cut costs is to see if the performers would donate their time,” she says, adding that this suggestion has not found a warm welcome in the performing arts and music community because artists get asked all the time to donate their services for free. Last year, the bill for paying Bowfest’s musical acts came to over $5,000. It was higher that the amount of around $4,000 that was divided by six of the island’s non-profits that, in most cases, had sent volunteers who worked all day at the concessions stands and gates. McSkimming believes that island performers will rise to the challenge and support this important fundraiser.
McSkimming, who is a performing artist herself, is not afraid to challenge the status quo. “I’m rocking the boat,” she laughs as she completes the last cookie sheet. But with her impressive record of volunteer service on the island, she brings the credentials and experience to pull it off.
This year’s Bowfest is on Aug 24.