Nancy Cottingham Powell, co-ordinator of the inaugural Sechelt Family Arts Festival held last weekend, is happy with the results. After a year of planning and plotting, the fun-filled two days went off without a hitch.
"I'm very pleased. Everything ran as planned," Powell said.
Powell, who answered a help wanted ad by the District of Sechelt last year for the position, brings a wealth of experience to the job. She's managed events as diverse as parades at Expo '86 to the annual Variety Club Telethon. She credits those past experiences with giving her chutzpah to both fund-raise and convince artists and suppliers to reduce or waive their usual fees.
"I was the associate producer on the Variety Club Telethon for five years in the late 80s and early 90s. This is where I learned to do great things on a shoestring and ask for favours in an effective way," Powell said.
Powell, the youngest of three children and the only girl, grew up in North Vancouver. She trained as an actress at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, Calif., but early on decided she didn't want to go the Hollywood star route.
Powell came back to Vancouver and did the theatre scene for about five years. She played in mainly song and dance productions such as Jesus Christ Superstar in Stanley Park. "I love dancing," she said. After the theatre experiences, Powell was a contestant co-ordinator on the game show circuit. During that time she became good friends with Global TV's weatherman Wayne Cox. After the game shows dried up, Powell toured the country with 125 Experience Canada, which celebrated our 125th birthday. In four months the North Van woman travelled every province and one territory in Canada. The troupe consisted of 125 people including technicians. After that experience, Powell worked for the PNE for several years. Fast forward a few years, and Powell and husband Ross were looking for a new place to live where they could afford to buy a home. The choice came down to Maple Ridge or the Sunshine Coast. The Powell's, parents of two boys, aged two and five, loved their new home. And the icing on the cake came when the Sechelt festival position was created and Nancy was the successful applicant.
She found working with Sechelt councillor Ann Kershaw a pleasure. "I couldn't say enough wonderful things about her and her committee. They always supported me," Powell enthused. "They all pitched in and helped whenever possible."
The rest of council provided help during the weekend. And Powell was impressed with the District staff. "Joni (Heinrich) at the District was fabulous. Paul Appelt and John Gillespie were all so supportive," Powell said.The co-ordinator also appreciated the tolerance of the neighbours in the vicinity of Hackett Park, one of the venues of the festival. "No one complained," she said.
Saturday drew the larger crowds of the two days of the festival. The morning events were geared to young families, and the afternoon featured events for seniors. Powell estimates more than 1,500 attended during the two days.
"People were so happy. One woman told me she'd never been to a festival that she enjoyed so much."
Powell said everyone involved with the festival was pleased with the outcome - the performers, crew and audiences. "That's when events are magical," she said.