by John Copley
(St. Albert) – The annual Métis Spring Festival took place May 17-19 this year when thousands of spectators joined the hundreds of competitive dancers, jiggers and other talented performers participating at the popular venue, which was first utilized by the event host, Métis Child and Family Services (MCFS), in 2010. This year the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) joined the celebration in partnership with MCFS and sponsored both the Fiddling Competitions and the Square Dance performers that joined the celebration from out of province.
In an earlier interview festival organizer Florence Gaucher noted that MCFS was “very grateful to the Métis Nation of Alberta for their support,” noting that the MNA’s participation enabled MCFS to eliminate all admission fees this year. Everyone was welcome to attend, and they came out in droves.
“It was a very successful event and our biggest as far as attendance goes,” noted Gaucher. “We are very pleased to say the event was an outstanding success and we are very grateful for the support of our community and our sponsors.”
Welcoming and keynote speakers included Don Langford, Executive Director of Metis Child & Family Services and the Métis Nation of Alberta’s Provincial Vice President, Dan Cardinal.
An open Talent Show got the event underway on Friday evening, May 17 and was followed on both May 18 and 19 with Fiddling and Jigging Competitions; concessions and crafters were available onsite for those looking for great food and/or a unique item or gift to take home.
Square dance performers participated throughout the two-day event with participants.
As with most large-crowd events, volunteers played a big role in helping to ensure smooth transitions throughout the two-day competition. Most volunteers were MCFS staff; other volunteers included Talent Show emcee Luc Gauthier, Day 1 Competitions and Performances emcee Nolan Crouse and Day 2 Competitions and Performances emcee, Dan Cardinal.
Event musicians Calvin Vollrath, Alfie Myhre and Riel Aubichon, did an outstanding job as they fiddled and strummed dozens of different tunes, their music lighting up the stage for the large number of jigging competitors who strutted-their-stuff in front of judges Ben Chartrand, Jenny Troock, Luc Gauthier and Sonia Desjarlais. As well as providing music for jigging competitions the three well known and talented performers also judged the fiddling competitions.
Back-up musicians at the 2019 Métis Spring Festival included Byron Myhre, Clint Pelletier and Darryl Campbell; Sound technician Mike Gilmore kept the sounds in sync and on-track with a great ear and practiced expertise.
The 2019 Festival got underway on Friday evening with the Festival’s annual Talent Show that featured a growing number of talented vocalists from around the province.
Julianna Houle won the (Male/Female) Junior Vocals (7-12) portion of the program with Joey Desjarlais, Ezra MacDonald and Kylie Hutscal finishing second, third and fourth respectively. The (Male/Female) Youth Vocals (13-19) category was won by Colton Bear; Jessie Inkpen, Danette Crouter and Jaeyln Brule finish second, third and fourth. Adult Female Vocals was won by Kaeley Wiebe, with Marilyn Lee, Kristen Singer and Lisa Quintal finishing second through fourth. The Adult Male category winner was Corey Poitras; Travis White, Alfred Mitchell and Michael Ferguson finished second, third and fourth.
The Senior Vocal Competition saw Marvin Tompkins finish in first place while competitors Barbara Ann, Rollie Poitras and Ronnie Guitar finished second through fourth respectively.
During the two-day gathering a medley of entertainment attractions were introduced to the large audiences whenever there was a break in the competition. Outstanding entertainment was delivered by performers that included Dauphin, Manitoba’s D-Town Steppers, Ft. Qu’appelle Valley Métis Dancers, Saskatchewan’s Pine House Junior Dancers, the Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers and Edmonton’s Métis Child and Family Jiggers.
The D-Town Steppers are a female dance group, the majority of whom have danced together since 2013; their wish is to bring pride to Métis communities and a hope for the future.
The Qu’Appelle Valley square dancers are a captivating, powerful and inspiring group with a quest to satisfy audiences near and far. Though there are some newcomers in the group most of the dancers have been performing for more than 10 years.
The Pine House square dancers have been together as a group for 2 years and have previous experience dancing with other groups. Their main focus is to promote Métis Culture as well as to inspire the youth to continue their Métis traditions.
The Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers are from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The three siblings, Michael, Jacob & Cieanna have shared a passion for dance since early childhood. They perform traditional dances of the Red River Jig mixed with modern dancing known as the hip hop jig. They hope to motivate and inspire people of all ages while bringing awareness to their strong and vibrant Métis culture.
The Junior Jigging (7-12) and Junior Youth Jigging Category (13-18) included both male and female competitors. First Place in the Junior category was awarded to Keidradyn Berland with second place going to Aalah Hambler. Natalie Webb and Bella Parry finished third and fourth. The Youth Category was won by Paulina Kuznetsov with Kenton Allok, Breanna Ross and Kevyna Randle finishing second through fourth respectively.
The Female Adult Jigging competition was won by Lisa Quintal; Jocelyn Ladouceur, Mavis Goodswimmer and Nadine Gladue finished second, third and fourth. Raymond Gladue took home first place money in the Adult Male Jigging category while Corey Poitras finished in second, just ahead of Trevor White and fourth place finisher Andy Quintal.
The Female Performers and Male Performers Jigging competition was a new addition to the competitive program this year. The Female category was won by Jolene Langford with second through fourth place going to Cienna Harris, Delphina Highway and Amara Stranger. The Male Performers Jigging category was won by Jayde Fiddler. Jacob Harris finished in second place with Modest McKenzie and Michael Harris finishing third and fourth.
The (Male/Female) Senior Jigging competition was won by Bev Lambert; Jack Flett finished second with Eddie Poitras and Carolyn Karakonti finishing in third and fourth place.
The Fiddling contest proved to be a hard-fought battle again this year, once again a sign that the annual competition continues to attract quality competitors.
Winner in the Junior Fiddling ((Male/Female) category was Karen Hutscal; Hanna Chartand placed second while Julianna Houle and Jaxon Willier finished third and fourth respectively. The Male/Female Youth Fiddling competition saw Samuel Corry finish first; Zachary Willier, second; Rigel Borch, third and Shade Clark, fourth.
The Adult Amateur Fiddle competition was won by Amber Gordon with Corey Poitras second and Jackson Corry, third.
The Open Fiddle category saw Ethan Harty take home top prize money while Allison Granger, Colton Bear and Braden Gates finished second through fourth. Eddie Poitras took home the top prize in the Senior Fiddling category with Ronnie Guitae finishing second. There were no entries for third and fourth place.
MCFS Program Manager Florence Gaucher organized and oversaw the event and said she was pleased again this year to see so many people attend the event and express their interest in Métis dance, music, tradition and culture.
“It was another outstanding event; we had some good weather, great crowds, outstanding entertainment and keen competition,” she said. “We are grateful for the ongoing support of the St. Albert and surrounding communities and very pleased to see that so many different ethnic groups joined us again this year. Thank you to everyone who participated and congratulations to all of the winners.”
Servus Centre is a large and well-serviced facility with lots of parking space and the popular 320,000 square foot multipurpose leisure centre that houses three NHL-sized arenas, an aquatic centre, fitness centre, indoor playground, three gymnasium courts, two field houses, a teaching kitchen, and numerous retail operations and food service outlets.
MCFS works diligently to ensure that they make a positive difference in the lives of both those they serve and in society as a whole. The organization has a proven track record and a lengthy list of objectives that work to ensure that Aboriginal children, women and families have access to services and opportunities that they may not be able to access by themselves. MCFS endeavours to improve the quality and effectiveness of social services to Aboriginal children and families in need and in doing so develops and provides programs that preserve and strengthen families. The organization also promotes the health and well-being of Aboriginal children and families by building capacity in the Métis community through the provision of culturally sensitive and appropriate services and programs.
MCFS programs include: Aboriginal Child and Family Support, Family Services, Choices/Choices a Partnership Stay in School and Youth Support Program, Community Support Homes (Foster Care), Kinship Care, Family Violence, Protection of Sexually Exploited Children and the Street Outreach Team Assisting community resources.
For more information about Métis Child and Family Services see the website at: www.metischild.com. To learn more about Métis Spring Festival 2019 contact Florence at 780-452-6100 or email: [email protected]