NNSL Photo/Graphic

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Ice carving competition loses funding
De Beers pulls $30,000 from jamboree 'fan favourite'; fundraising director says move 'speaks to the changing priorities of the company'

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

With two months to go, the fifth Long John Jamboree suffered a major setback last week as De Beers Canada pulled out of its annual sponsorship to the Inspired Ice Carving Championship.

NNSL photo/graphic

De Beers Canada announced it will withdraw the company's funding for this year's Long John Jamboree citing difficult economic realities. Late last year, De Beers announced the closure of its Snap Lake diamond mine. - Walter Strong/NNSL photo

The Long John Jamboree Society announced in a news release Monday the $30,000 provided every year by De Beers was cancelled.

The decision comes after the company shut down its Snap Lake diamond mine and stated in December that it would no longer be contributing financially to NorthWords NWT.

Adrian Bell, a city councillor director of fundraising for the jamboree, said he was very disappointed at the news.

Bell founded the jamboree in 2012 and has remained one of its steady champions.

He admitted he was very disappointed at the news, in part because there had been plans to grow to 12 ice carvings from 10 last year.

"It is definitely a big hit for the jamboree," he said. "We do have other sources of revenue and other sponsors for the jamboree but none of them provide this kind of cash contribution.

"So it has pretty big implications for the event."

Yellowknifer has reported since the festival's beginning in 2012 that the ice carving championships have been one of the event's most favoured aspects.

The competition has also been promoted by the festival as a way of attracting international ice carvers North for the unique ice blocks in the bay - known as crystal blue aurora ice.

Bell said because the event is two months away - March 25 to 27 - most expenses have been committed to other aspects of the festival. This makes it difficult to find other revenue sources to make up for the loss. He said it is likely there will be a scaled-down ice carving demonstration and that the competition could be revived next year with more time to find a new sponsor.

"We are talking about having a couple of demonstration carvings so there is still some sort of presence of ice carving. It is so visually impressive and people love to watch it."

Although there have been economic setbacks in the NWT lately, particularly with De Beers closing Snap Lake and diamond markets down, Bell said something else may be at play.

"I think it speaks to the changing priorities of the company," he said. "We saw them move executive positions to Calgary. Although they had given some assurances that it did not mean they were turning their back on the North, we see them pull money from NorthWords and Inspired Ice."

Tom Ormsby, senior external and corporate affairs manager with De Beers, said the company does not want the perception to be it is turning its back on the North and that it wasn't an easy decision to make. Rather, over the last six to eight weeks the company has done a serious comprehensive review of its business strategy and had to consider where its money can be best used.

"Unfortunately, we have gotten to the point where we had to look at what do we have left to use and where can we make the biggest impact," he said.

"We had to make some decisions and one of those, at this time is that we aren't going to be able to continue with the ice carving competition."

Bell said there will be new events, but most of the details are either yet to be finalized or are to be left as a surprise.

He said the jamboree wants to see more community engagement and involvement in the final weeks to help offset the loss of the competition.

"In order to be sustainable (the jamboree) has to be a community event, not just be an event in the community," he said, adding that he wants to see community groups come together to host their own ideas and contributions.

"We have a board of volunteers expected to put things together but this won't work long-term and we are seeing the burnout that it is causing."

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