A long time professional Prince Edward County theatre group has fallen on hard financial times.
On Thursday, the general manager of Festival Players was forced to come to the committee of the whole with hat in hand requesting the municipality pick up the $4,100 tab of renting Milford’s Mount Tabour this past season.
Courtney Quebec explained it was their most successful season to date, drawing 5,000 tourists, but the group had been denied a $36,000 Celebrate Ontario grant from the Ministry of Tourism and is now facing a $24,000 deficit.
She said they have relied on the grant since 2007 and this year they fell short to larger events like the Cheese Festival that drew bigger crowds.
There was some grumbling around the horseshoe about timing, as 2017 budget deliberations are just around the corner, plus the group was given $11,850 in the 2016 budget and another $8,000 in grants from the County Community Foundation. Councillor Roy Pennell suggested this looked like “double dipping.”
Quebec says they have a $300,000 annual budget, and are working on a modest three year budget going forward that will see a reduction in actors until the deficit is cured.
Former South Marysburgh councillor Monica Alyea spoke up saying this is the county’s only professional theatre group, they are a destination attraction and the municipality should consider giving them $10,000 to keep them going.
“This is your corporate strategic plan regarding tourism speaking to you,” said Alyea. “These guys are making us, as a County, money. “These guys are doing a good job and the ringer they are put through to apply for a grant is really sad to watch.”
Councillor Barry Turpin reminded the committee that council had a lot of groups come forward during budget deliberations that weren’t successful.
“Between the County and the community, over $20,000 has been given to the group,” he said. “That’s a lot and to dig into 2016 isn’t supportable by me. We will see in 2017.”
Councillor Lenny Epstein took an opposing stance and explained how he too has taken in a few productions. “They’re amazing!” he described. “I understand the argument about timing. But we came under the same thing when the Picton Pirates recently came to council for funds for ice painting and a dryer is concerned.”
“Monica made an impassioned plea,” said councillor Kevin Gale. “We owe a lot of our tourism because of them. If there is unused money that other groups didn’t pick up I’d like to see it used as a life preserver for them.”
In the end the committee deferred the matter to the November 8 council meeting to see if there are some unused grant funds left in the pot to give the group.