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Funding crisis could ground Chilliwack Flight Fest

After 20 years, Chilliwack Flight Fest could be grounded next year unless organizers find a way to make up for a $30,000 provincial gaming grant that runs out this year.

According to guidelines introduced last spring when Bingo Affiliation Grants and Direct Access Grants were rolled into a single Community Gaming Grant program, the annual air show no longer meets the criteria for funding.

In a letter rejecting the Flight Fest Societys application organizers were told fairs and festivals that do not reflect the community and regional or cultural characteristics of the community are ineligible for the grant.

The government funding represents about 30 per cent of Flight Fests annual budget, and without it organizers say the show is in jeopardy.

Im just trying to be realistic, said Flight Fest director Ray Firkus. Can it be done? Yeah, Im sure it can be done, but its not going to happen without a lot of effort.

One factor under organizers' control, he said, is the axe.

Theres lots of ways that we can trim, but its not the same event.

Firkus favours making up for the lost grant with increased sponsorship, and he said the society has made some gains in that area by making sponsorship more commercially viable for sponsors.

Ultimately, however, Firkus said the show has to overcome the complacency of people who think Flight Fest will go on simply because its been around for 20 years.

If nobody cares, it wont survive, he said.

Organizers havent given up on the Community Gaming Grant either.

They have resubmitted their application, outlining especially how Flight Fest ties into Chilliwacks military heritage.

We are trying to determine where the line in the sand is, what theyre looking for. If we qualify, we want to get the funds. If we dont, well, we dont.

One option Firkus doesnt want to see the society pursue is charging admission to make up for the lost grant.

Im just one person on the board, he said, but Im convinced it would not solve our fiscal problem; it would create another one.

Flight Fest has been a free event since it started in 1992, and Firkus said the show gets a lot of in-kind and at-cost sponsorship because of that.

Charging admission could mean losing those donations, according to Firkus.

Im of the belief that if we could generate $10,000 in revenue from a gate, it would cost us $15,000 more to put the show on, he said.

This years Flight Fest is on Aug. 20 and 21. For more information, visit www.chilliwackairshow.ca.

cnaylor@chilliwacktimes.com

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