Donna and Irene’s interest in promoting opportunities in the arts for children and adults in our community led them to explore ways of increasing those opportunities. Their explorations led them to team up with some other members of the community who were also interested. This group, including Donna and Irene, had already worked tirelessly together for many years in the task of working to support the local band program, which was first a community venture and, thanks to their efforts, became a school program. Some members of this group, and others, who were taking students to other festivals, thought that a local festival would allow even more students to take advantage of the festival experience. Hence, they did their homework and launched the first Deloraine Border Festival in April of 1981. They were grateful for the assistance of Elizabeth Upton Enns, executive Director of the AMAF.
Both Donna and Irene were on the first committee. Donna was President, no small job at the best of times but especially challenging when everyone is new to the job and looking to you for guidance. Irene was the sole member of the Awards Committee, which included helping to sort out what the awards would be, how to purchase them, and organizing the Hi-Lites /Awards Concert at which they were presented. In addition to the duties associated with their positions, both were on deck to help with everything else that needed doing, from developing a syllabus (in the days before AMAF), the laborious task of hand collating the pages of the program (which were run off on a gestetner) to acting as ushers and disciplinarians to keep enthusiastic young band musicians organized during the band performances- no small feat!
When Donna left the presidency she took on the largest discipline, piano, for many, many years. As well, she continued to be an innovator. With her encouragement, the festival brought in outside performers so that students and adults could be exposed to concerts by professional musicians or students in advanced music studies. Also under her leadership, another group was formed to take on this task, and the local Showcase Series was formed which continues to bring five or six professional musical and drama performances to town yearly.
Donna was our festival liaison with AMAF and was on the AMAF Board as a local representative for many years. She would encourage committee members to join her annual trips to the AMAF AGM.
Irene continued to capably handle the awards for many years as a committee of one, which to this day includes organizing the final concert. The number and complexity of the awards increased until an assistant became necessary. The concert grew as well, becoming a massive organizational effort to get the final concert program together when some award winners were not known until a day or two before the concert! It is a tough enough job today with the technology we have to help out. When she finally handed over the reins, she took on the job of the phoning committee, important to the morale and meeting attendance of the festival team. It was only discontinued recently as technology made the position redundant. Incidentally, if we gave an award for festival attendance (either as a volunteer or audience member), she would win hands down, missing very few sessions in our 14 days of festival plus the final concert every April.
Both continue to attend meetings and to attend or work at sessions. Present members value the mentoring, wisdom and perspective they offer when asked.
In view of their contribution to festivals in Manitoba by starting the Deloraine Border Festival and helping to keep it a viable force for the arts in our corner of Manitoba, we submitted their names for AMAF Life Memberships.
Donna received her award at the Associated of Manitoba Arts (AMAF) Annual General meeting and Conference on October 19th in Winnipeg. Irene received hers at the Deloraine Border Festival meeting on November 12.
They are great examples to us all of great community service and dedication to the Arts in Southwest Manitoba.