|Industry News |
|Annual bird count set for next weekend
Complete: When it comes to counting winter birds, time can really fly.
Brandon’s 32nd official Christmas Bird Count is coming up quickly — it will take place on Sunday, Dec. 16.
The bird count is a day set aside for participants to count and identify as many species of birds as possible within a designated count area, which is always a 12-kilometre radius circle.
This circle is then divided into several segments, with each segment being covered by a field party.
Coverage is obtained by walking and driving around and through your count area keeping track of total kilometres driven and walked. You record all the species of birds you identify and their approximate numbers.
However, you don’t have to drive about or brave the elements to be involved in the count and contribute valuable information.
If you have bird feeders around your home, you can participate as a feeder watcher.
Simply record the highest number of birds seen of each species coming to your feeders at any time throughout the count day.
Over the years we’ve found that some of the day’s best sightings often occur at feeders.
Then, at day’s end, all participants meet, have a potluck meal and compile their day’s observations.
The Brandon Christmas Bird Count is really a good excuse to get outside, get some exercise, fresh air and have some friendly competition and comradeship.
To register or for additional information on this or other bird counts in Manitoba, contact Cal Cuthbert at 729-3504 day or 727-2239 evenings.
|Keystone board gets update on capital plan
Complete: The Keystone Centre’s board of directors received an update on the progress of its capital plan on Thursday.
Some of the $3.3 million will go toward a new ice deck, stage and curtains.
While another portion will be allocated for renovations to the amphitheatre, turning the room primarily into a lecture hall with the capacity of seating about 600 people.
“(The amphitheatre has) been closed for about four years,” Keystone Centre general manager Neil Thomson said. “These renovations will give us the opportunity to bring it into our revenue stream.”
The Keystone Centre will also replace the digital sign on 18th Street.
John Macialek will return as the board’s chairman, while Tim Hore is the new vice-chair.
|No river skating trail yet
You'll soon be able to skate on trails at The Forks -- but you won't be on the river.
Paul Jordan, chief operating officer at The Forks, said Friday he has taken a look at the Assiniboine River and it's nowhere near safe for skating yet.
But Jordan said it's a different story on land.
"We're putting water on our walking trails," he said. "We're thinking by next week we could have most of our upper trails ready to go. We could have them open by Tuesday or Wednesday.
"And by then, I think we'll have a good idea about the river, too."
|Petition to restore RMNP services gets nearly 800 names
Complete: A petition to restore winter services to Riding Mountain National Park garnered almost 800 signatures, putting pressure on the federal government to re-examine budget cuts.
“I want to see a return of the maintenance of the cross-country ski trails to this park and other National Parks,” said Celes Davar, who started the petition and is an Onanole business owner. “It was a silly decision to change the designation of Riding Mountain National Park from a four-seasons park to a three-seasons park.”
The cuts, which affected RMNP’s ability to maintain about 150 kilometres of winter-trail system, are having a devastating impact on the local economy, according to Davar.
“It’s a slap in the face for rural tourism,” said Davar, who has played a role in growing winter tourism to the park for more than 20 years.
Davar said the government isn’t doing enough to promote the park, which is still open in the winter. And that federal messaging has confused many of the people who used to frequent the park in the winter months — people who now believe the park is closed completely.
He was also unimpressed with Parks Canada CEO Alan Latourelle’s response to the petition, calling it “a weak” and “typical” government response.
“As part of its efforts to help reduce the federal deficit and meet the $29.2-million reduction to Parks Canada’s budget as announced in the 2012 budget, the agency has taken several steps to reduce its expenditures,” Latourelle said.
“Parks Canada is focusing investments on the periods when national parks and national historic sites are busiest. As part of this effort to align seasons with patterns of visitation in the vast majority of national parks, the agency will focus investments on the busy summer, spring and fall seasons. The pattern of visitation at Riding Mountain National Park of Canada is consistent with this direction.”
Latourelle is also satisfied with the amount of public consultation the government undertook after making the cuts.
“Riding Mountain National Park representatives have already met with several groups concerned about the future of winter activities within the Park and are available to meet with other concerned citizens as required,” Latourelle said. “Mr. Robert Sopuck, member of Parliament for Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, also recently held public consultations to discuss winter activities in the Park.”
Kurt Mazur, who runs the youth Jack Rabbit ski program in Wasagaming, is part of a volunteer group that is trying to ensure that the trails at RMNP continue to be groomed. But the volunteer group, which will act as a partner with RMNP, has been forced to put the brakes on grooming due to government red tape, according to Mazur.
“Without any grooming in the park, the Jack Rabbit program would shut down,” Mazur said. “It’s been a very slow process. It’s new for Riding Mountain and Parks Canada and it hasn’t been as easy as everyone has thought it would be.”
He doesn’t believe that volunteers can be expected to shoulder the load over the long term, believing that the government should re-examine the winter-services cut. Mazur also said that since the initial meetings regarding the issue in August, there has been a lack of leadership from the federal government.
An official with Sopuck’s office in Ottawa directed any questions regarding the matter to Parks Canada.
“It’s not feasible to expect volunteers to do this for a long period of time,” Mazur said. “People are already getting tired. They’ve been to meeting after meeting and spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we are going to get this done and we haven’t even started grooming yet. Now, we’re going to get a snowfall and people are busy shovelling out their own driveway, but they have to get to the park to groom some trails. It will be very hard to sustain through volunteers.”
The Jack Rabbit club has already seen a reduction in numbers, Mazur said, down from 15 last year to seven this winter.
“We had families that were affected by the budget cuts so their kids are no longer in the ski program,” Mazur said.
He said others don’t want to ski on the trails out of principle, believing they should still be maintained by RMNP staff.
|Strand proposal must be done by end of Jan.
Complete: The Brandon Folk, Music and Art Society has been given another chance to secure funding for its Strand Theatre revitalization project.
As Renaissance Brandon announced Thursday, they have prepared a new agreement with the BFMAS, requiring the society to formally submit a revised funding proposal to the federal government by Jan. 31.
"That’s the kind of caveat we wanted in there to ensure that we could keep the momentum behind the project," said Renaissance Brandon chair Shaun Cameron.
The previous agreement, which required the BFMAS to actually secure government funding, was set to expire today.
Renaissance Brandon will commit $374,000 to the BFMAS pending successful funding applications to the federal and provincial governments.
"The vision for the Strand put forth by BFMAS remains aligned with Renaissance Brandon’s vision for an arts and entertainment district," Cameron said. "A project of this nature supports many of the themes set forth in our vision plan."
The previous commitment was $474,000. However, $100,000 has since been spent on stabilizing The Strand building after the Brown Block partially collapsed.
Shandra MacNeill, artistic director with the BFMAS, said she is pleased that Renaissance Brandon is continuing its funding commitment for the project.
"It’s really a chance of a lifetime for our city to build a facility like this," MacNeill said. "We’ve seen models for this in other communities. This one is a little bit special though because it does have huge flexibility in its usage. Everything from small theatre productions to dance performances, live music … But we also have the ability to handle private functions as well — wedding receptions, business meetings, workshops …"
MacNeill said there are about 30 groups that have shown interest in using such a facility.
"We have good representation from all the groups in town that do live performance, whether that’s music, theatre, dance or literary arts ... we have a really broad cross-section," she said.
The Strand Theatre was built in 1917 and was refurbished into a movie theatre in 1930.
The new funding agreement between Renaissance Brandon and BFMAS states the $374,000 would be payable over two years, based on several conditions, including that the applications to the federal and provincial governments are successful. The BFMAS must also provide Renaissance Brandon with a written progress update by the 15th of each month.
This project has been years in the making. BFMAS had previously submitted a $1.8-million funding application to the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, but were rejected last March. They were invited to reapply with a revised business and fundraising plan.
MacNeill said they are completing the "final editing and tweaking" of the revised proposal.
"There is a fundraising cabinet that’s been working on their fundraising plan, that was one of the things we had to work on for the federal submission as well," she said. "So when they are ready to go … they will be launching that campaign."
In October, Premier Greg Selinger publicly backed the restoration project, while Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Merv Tweed said he no longer supported it, due to the lengthy delays in applying and reapplying for grants.
MacNeill said she is optimistic about funding coming together for the project, adding work has already begun on the inside of the theatre thanks to some in-kind labour.
"We do want to get the building into a position where we can take people through, because you only have to stand in that theatre with all the seats there to be able to imagine the really wonderful and fantastic things that can go on there, and how it would be to shine a spotlight on our local performers," she said.
|Switch to digital may keep drive-in dark this summer
Complete: From steamed-up sedans to sneaking people into the show in the trunk of a vehicle, going to the movies at a drive-in is truly a unique experience.
But like many forms of entertainment the drive-in theatre has been replaced by new technology, in this case, large, climate-controlled theatres that offer 3D and surround sound.
The Shamrock Drive-In, in Killarney, is one of only three drive-ins left in the province, but owner Joanne Struss admits this summer could be the first time in a long time the theatre doesn’t open to show movies.
“The cost to move to digital has just grown astronomically,” said Struss, who purchased the business two years ago with her husband Darren.
Struss said when they first purchased the Shamrock Drive-In, they expected the conversion to cost anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 to upgrade to the new digital projectors. At last count that number has swelled to around $80,000 as film companies have quit issuing movies in the 35mm format and have gone strictly digital.
“We’re excited about digital,” Struss said. “It will give us such a beautiful picture ... and we’ll still be able to incorporate our speaker sound, so we’re excited to do it, but I don’t think it will be this summer.”
Struss admits it will be difficult if the drive-in is forced to take a year’s absence from showing pictures and hopes that some sort of an arrangement with movie companies can be worked out to even show older movies that were still made with the 35 mm technology.
“I’m going to miss it if we have to take a year off and it’s concerning whether or not you’ll be forgotten,” Struss said. “It will be disappointing too for the people who love to come. For some people that is their weekend thing to do and you’re so thankful for those people. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we’re up and running, but it has to be something we can financially handle.”
Struss said it has been more and more difficult for small theatres to afford the rising costs of renting movies to show at theatres.
“If we have to pay their regular fees, we would be paying people to come to the drive-in,” Struss said.
In most cases, if a movie does well Struss pays a higher percentage of her gate to the movie company. Conversely, if the movie fails, she still owes a minimum amount that at times is more than the gate itself.
While the rental fees pose a problem, so do the constraints that are inherent in the drive-in business. Struss can only show movies seasonally, relies on good weather and can’t begin shows untill much later in the summer months due to extended daylight.
That makes it difficult to combat rising costs, and couple that with the digital conversion, and Struss might not have a choice but to take a year off.
“If we could play movies all year round and have the same number of people come out as they do in the summer it would be viable,” Struss said.
But it’s also something she’s not willing to give up on without a fight.
“When I was a young girl it was a real treat to go to the drive-in,” Struss said. “It didn’t happen often, but you got to stay up late, which was exciting on it’s own. There is something wonderful watching a movie outside on the big screen.”
“People enjoy coming because it is a drive-in,” Struss said. “They want the drive-in experience.”
Struss said she has been in contact with other drive-in owners that face the same problem.
Killarney, Morden and Flin Flon are the only places left to see a drive-in movie in Manitoba and Struss said some community members have volunteered to start fundraising, but she’s not sure how she feels about it.
“A lot of people have asked us to fundraise, but it’s a strange thing to fundraise for a privately owned business,” Struss said. “It feels strange to us and people tell us we’re a community commodity.”
Ideally she said, “we want people to support us by just coming to the drive-in and getting that experience. And a lot of wonderful people already do.”
|Trans Canada Hwy electrified. Sault sparked in today
Sun Country Highway has electrified the Trans Canada Highway in just eight months.
The company's Vice President, Christopher Misch, was in Sault Ste. Marie this morning to unveil the city's free electric vehicle charging site located at the Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront Hotel and Convention Centre.
He said the folks at the Delta were eager to become the Sault's spark along the highway, as were the other restaurants, hotels and tourist destinations the company partnered with to create the longest, greenest highway in the world.
He and a team from Sun Country Highway are taking a state-of-the-art Sun Country Highway limited edition Tesla Roadster across the country on the Trans Canada Highway to test out the charging sites.
|From The Attic: "Western Trips Of TCA Unaffected" WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, DECEMBER 10, 1941
(A complete article published originally in the WFP, Dec. '41)
O. T. Larson, vice-president in charge of operations of Trans-Canada Air Lines, announced last night that T.C.A. service is proceeding in regular order, except for some minor interruption on account of local blackout regulations in the coast areas. The statement was issued after T.C.A. officials in Toronto had reported that all flights east of Montreal and from Toronto to New York had been suspended because of the national emergency. The Toronto officials had said that they had been advised to discontinue operations because of the necessity of using the radio beam which might be of possible use to the enemy. Mr. Larson's statement said that Trans-Canada Air Lines services have not been discontinued. In Montreal, Flight Manager R. Vachon said that the Montreal- Moncton-Halifax service of T.C.A. was perfectly normal. Another T.C.A. official said that the radio beam to the east had been shut off for one hour and then resumed.
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