"We're trying to get the community more involved in the festival," said Marc Poirier, Chair of the committee of about eight main organizers, who are all volunteers. "The whole point of the festival is to make people more aware of what's available to them in terms of art."
On Nov. 4, organizers issued a challenge to schools and students in Orléans by way of a series of contests ranging from Glee musical performances to 3D food art sculptures and T-Shirt graphic design competitions.
"When you add the element of competition it helps classes to become better," said Poirer.
Competitions are being organized in the categories of Music (Glee, choir, instrumental band), Dance (jazz, hip hop, social dance), Circus (mime, buskers), Graphic Arts (t-shirt design, poster design), and Food (3D food art sculpture, recipe book). The goal is to actively engage youth in festival activities to help showcase local amateur artists, chefs and artisans.
Poirier explains it's too early to tell how well this new project will be received by the students, but had festival volunteers visiting all participating schools this week.
"We wanted to tap into the arts in the schools. We want to become the pathway between students and high end performing arts."
Online registration for all categories is available on the festival's website, www.orleansfestival.ca. The deadline for submission is Nov. 20.
Poirier, has been with the festival that takes place in and around the Shenkman Arts Centre on Centrum Blvd., since it's foundation in 2009. He says that the growth in three short years has been incredible. "The first one exceeded our expectations by drawing in 2,500 people. Last year, we had approximately 9,000 and this year, we're anticipating over 15,000. That's considerable growth," he said. There were 40 performances on three outdoor and four indoor stages, 30 visual artists, 11 artisans and five culinary events at the 2011 festival.
"We designed it that way purposely because we want to grow to the level that can give sponsors great exposure and artists the exposure they deserve, as well."
For that reason, Orléans festival organizers have added an additional day. He says that a lot of new ideas have been circulating, like the school challenge, but they have yet to be nailed down. An aboriginal aspect and an "haute couture" fashion show are among the new additions that have been discussed.
"We have interest in making these things happen, we just want to make sure if they are done that they are done properly."
More volunteers needed
Despite the fact that the festival is not for another seven months, organizers are already looking for volunteers and additional sponsors.
Poirier says because an additional day was added to the festival, naturally that means more support will be needed. Last year, the festival had between 150 – 200 volunteers. Poirier says this year the goal is 250.
"I think that all the volunteers enjoy the work that they do," he said. "We make sure that they're not overworked, that they're enjoying themselves and that they're bringing their creative ideas to the table."