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Festive spirit prevails

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 22/05) - Despite lower sales and a few problems transporting artists' materials and tools to the site, Christina Wilsdon, co-ordinator and artistic director for the 17th annual Great Northern Arts Festival, remains optimistic.

"Relatively speaking, we've done better than last year," she said.

In 2004, the festival hosted 106 artists compared to this year's complement of 65.

Opening day sales for this year's event were $44,000, down $22,000 from last year's record setting first-day sales of more than $66,000.

Judith Venaas, tourism and development officer for the region, says the number of visitors to Inuvik between July 11 and 16 this year were 393 compared to last year's total of 444.

"But we had a big group in yesterday (Monday, July 18) and another coming on the 22nd, so hopefully that will be good for the festival," said Venaas. Transportation became an issue when supplies and artwork from many of the participating artists were bumped from First Air - a major sponsor of the festival. The last of missing gear finally arrived Sunday, two days after the festival started, Wilsdon said.

"They had a full plane and some cargo couldn't get in, but these things happen," commented Danae Tilly, vice-chair of the festival committee. "It was a disappointment for some artists but we're very appreciative of (First Air's) sponsorship."

The festival continues until Sunday, July 24. Tonight (July 21), Yellowknife's Juno Award winning singer-songwriter Leela Gilday performs at the Midnight Sun arena. Friday's events culminate with the annual fashion show, also at the arena.

Saturday features an evening of traditional music in the arena, with drumming and dancing from several Mackenzie Delta groups.

Closing ceremonies commence Sunday at 4 p.m. in the gallery.