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Summer Days plans roll along on 60-year Lac La Biche tradition

Annual August long weekend event has increased its community focus with group supports

LAC LA BICHE - Planning for this year’s Lac La Biche Summer Days event that has drawn thousands of community members and visitors to the area for festivities, which include a parade, midway, children’s events and ball games, is picking up momentum. 

The annual event, which is continuing along the 60-year tradition of the annual Pow Wow Days, but with a new name, is set to take over the community for the August long weekend, says Lavon Fleming, the president of the Lac La Biche Pow Wow Days and Fish Derby Association.  

The annual summer celebration, which began in 1962, will be celebrating its diamond anniversary this year. Fleming says the event is a true gem for the community, and this year the community is really stepping up to support it. Fleming says a number of community groups have taken on planning and leadership roles for several of the weekend’s events. She says it’s vital to let local groups play roles in the community event. 

She said the local Kinsmen club, the Lac La Biche Agricultural Society, the Rotary Club and the local boxing club are just some local organizations planning to be part of the organizing group this year. A new group for the 60-year anniversary is the Lac La Biche Ladies Muslim Association, Fleming said, explaining that they will be handling the planning and volunteers for the children’s fish derby at the Alexander Hamilton Trout Pond. 

“For that group to take it on is quite exciting,” Flemaing says, and it shows great community pride for the celebration that thousands look forward to. 

Additionally, local favourites like the slow-pitch tournament hosted by the boxing club, the Heritage Society’s pancake breakfast, the Art Club’s face painting and flea market, and the Rotary Club’s Fish Fry will take place over the long-weekend, with more events currently in the planning stages, she said.  

The emphasis on community group support helps to keep the event in the hands of the community, she said. It also helps to find a volunteer base, which has been tricky in recent years.  

“We are going through a change and with more and more groups coming that sends a message that this is important to our community, it shows that we are willing to work together and this hasn’t been done in a long time,” she said.  

This year’s event will also feature the addition of the Lord Strathcona’s Mounted Horse Troop, which returns again this year as a part of the weekend events, showcasing the tradition and pageantry of the Canadian Armed Forces.   

While many features of Summer Days are confirmed, a final budget will be tabulated once all events and logistics are solidified, she said. 

This year a large advertising initiative will be allocated to the celebration to draw more tourists in the hopes of increasing revenue to support local organizations, said Fleming. 

“We are reinventing ourselves. We’ve gone through some rebranding, we have a new logo, a new approach to advertising with digital media,” including radio alongside creating memorabilia for people to remember and banners throughout the community, she added. 

Support 

Getting ready for the big event that already has roughly nine community groups teaming up with the Summer Days executive committee, she says, will require support from municipal officials in terms of filing applications for funding, insurance and authorization for street closures to move forward with planning. 

Some of that planning has already been done, with Alberta Transportation already notified about the closure of the Main Street for the annual parade that kicks off the event on the Friday. Other changes and local requests will hopefully be channeled through the organizers and County officials. 

Funding for the event will mainly be covered through provincial grant funding. In-kind costs for labour, equipment and some logistics will be made available by municipal staff. 

County help 

With a few months to go until Summer Days, and planning going well, Fleming says support from County officials through representation is also needed this year— a request she also made earlier this year after county officials pulled a representative from the Summer Days directors’ board in 2020. 

“It’s supposed to be our summer premiere event, and by having representation we can pull from various folks with different expertise…it keeps (Council), in the loop and it gives us some good governance,” she said. 

Previous municipal representative Coun. Jason Stedman says there are immense behind-the-scenes efforts required to put together the three-day event. 

"It’s an incredible amount of work which I appreciated seeing a lot from our community groups volunteer a lot of time to put that in,” he said. 

Insurance support 

One early hurdle to overcome in the County and Summer Days agreement is the insurance coverage and costs for the weekend. Traditionally the County has covered the costs for insurance through its municipal insurance — but this year,  $953 was provided to the Summer Days organziers to set up insurance for the event this year. It’s a new decision that doesn't bode well for the event, said Fleming. 

“The organization feels that it is imperative that we continue under the umbrella of the county. I did make some calls on insurance not long ago,” she says, explaining that it would cost roughly $3000 — “which is not feasible for organizers.” 

She hopes that continuing talks with municipal officials will iron out the insurance issue. 

Next steps 

Moving forward on the summer celebration, council will plan to work with Summer Days organizers as plans become solidified throughout the coming months. 

While there will likely be more challenges along the way — as it is a large event — Lac La Biche County councillor Lorin Tkachuk says whether there is a Council member at the Summer Days committee meetings, the municipality is in support of the community event. 

“One of the asks there is for council representation. Regardless of how that pans out, I think you can always count on having county representation,” he said. Tkachuk. 

Fleming and the Summer Days committee have been holding regular meetings, and expect to add more details to the long weekend plans in the coming weeks. The August long weekend this year falls between Friday, July 29 and Heritage Monday, August 1.