BY JOHN DECOSTE
Kings County Advertiser/Register
The Annapolis Valley Events and Sport Tourism Association (AVESTA) handed out its second annual awards at a luncheon Oct. 29 at the Old Orchard Inn in Greenwich.
The AVESTA awards, first presented in 2009, celebrate the achievements of Valley events and festivals, recognizing the important positive economic and social impact these organizations bring to the region.
Awards were presented in four categories: Event Legacy, Sport Legacy, Venue and Event of the Year.
The first award was for Event Legacy. The nominees were Berwick Gala Days, the Deep Roots Music Festival and the Festival of Lights. The award was presented to Berwick Gala Days, an annual celebration first held Sept. 2, 1945 in Berwick, sponsored by the Berwick Amateur Athletic Association in an effort to improve facilities at Rainforth Park. The first program included such events as horse pulls, a tug-of-war, street parade, women’s softball, men’s baseball, a United Church supper and a street dance to end the day.
Now 65 years old, Gala Days has evolved into a three-day event, still primarily held at Rainforth Park, attracting 7,000 people. Current events include children’s activities, a midway, horse and ox pulls, a strongman competition, five-mile road race, youth fun run, street parade, fireworks, woodsman competition, tug of war, the crowning of a Gala Days queen and lots of food and fun.
The success of the event over the years is largely attributed to the work of many volunteers. All funds raised go back to support youth activities in Berwick and the surrounding area.
The second award was for Sport Legacy. The nominees were the Berwick Men’s/ Women’s Slo-pitch Tournament, the Gunn Baldursson Memorial Soccer Tournament and the New Minas Invitational Soccer Tournament. Nationally recognized athletics coach Ueli Albert, a huge proponent of Pparalympic athletics, presented the award to Holly Thompson, representing the New Minas Invitational Soccer Tournament.
First held in 1986, the New Minas tournament is an annual Valley event held each August in aid of youth soccer in the Eastern Kings area. Starting out with just eight teams, the tournament attracted a record 219 teams for its 20th anniversary. The 2010 tournament had 149 teams from U-8 and U-10 minis to U-12 to U-18 youth divisions, as well as U-10 High Performance and U-12 Academy Divisions. A volunteer committee (of which Thompson is a part) runs the tournament, with most games held at Lockhart and Ryan Park in New Minas, but making use of more than 20 fields throughout Kings County.
An economic impact study on the tournament carried out in 2009 indicated 3,800 visitors attended that year, accounting for approximately $400,000 in visitor spending.
The third award was the Venue Award. The nominees included the Al Whittle Theatre in Wolfville, the Annapolis Valley Lake and Ridgerunners Snowmobile Club trail system, and the St. Croix Recreation Complex. The award went to the AVLRR.
The snowmobile club, founded in 1990, has 131 members and issued 834 trail passes in 2009. Its trail system includes 500 km of actively-maintained terrain from Bridgetown to Canning and from East Dalhousie to the Fundy shore. Trail maintenance is carried out by about 70 members, who average between 750 and 1,000 hours grooming, as well as additional time on trail and bridge repairs. The club was the recipient of the Snowmobile Nova Scotia Club of the Year award in 2008/ 2009, and the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations Club of the Year for 2009/ 2010. A 2005 study conducted by Gardner Pinfold determined the economic impact of snowmobiling in Nova Scotia is $36 million, with approximately $5 million of that in the Valley region.
The fourth award was for Event of the Year. The nominees included the Canadian Junior National Fastpitch Tournament in St. Croix, the Eastern Canadian Archery Championships in Canaan and the U-18 Football Canada Cup, hosted by Acadia University in Wolfville in July. The award went to the Football Canada Cup.
The event showcased the best U-18 football players in Canada, with teams participating from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia (including 10 Kings County players). Some 400 players, coaches and officials took part, and the event drew an estimated 10,000 spectators for 12 games and daily practices. An economic impact assessment determined the tournament generated approximately $1 million, largely in the accommodation, food and retail sectors.