It’s time again for the midwinter Jack Frost Children’s WinterFest here in Charlottetown.
I’m going to set aside any commentary I might have about, say, the absurdity of using fossil-fuel-powered machines to make snow (the mind boggles at the self-fulfilling prophecy of it all), or importing ice from Upper Canada, or the overwhelming brand saturation of the event to point out its most egregious fault: it’s expensive.
Tickets for the weekend are $14 per person. There’s no special rate for children, and no family rate.
At the Prince Street School Home and School Association meeting this week it was pointed out that the high ticket price puts the festival out of reach of many downtown families. Imagine if you’re a lower-income family with four kids: you’re looking at $70 to get in the door.
Now I’m sure that to many $14 seems like a fair price — “it’s only the price of a movie and popcorn!” But for many others this is a lot of money; the sad irony is that many lower-income families live in downtown Charlottetown within shouting distance of the festival venue and yet cannot afford to attend.
Of course the Jack Frost Children’s WinterFest isn’t actually designed to be a festival for the local community: here is the way it was described at a public meeting of Charlottetown City Council in 2005:
We felt that working parents are seeking to spend quality time with their children and research shows that parents will come and spend time to create those memories as compensation for today’s hectic work schedule. In February you all know that there is pent up demand to get away and parents are searching for things to do with their children in these months. One could refer to Crystal Palace. … The objective of the Jack Frost Children’s WinterFest was to develop a festival during the winter months resulting in significant off-Island visitation and economic impact Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island.
So if you’re a harried double-income middle-class family in West Royalty or Moncton or Halifax you’re in the heart of the festival’s target demographic. If you happen to be a “non-working parent” with less disposable income, well, that’s just too bad. Unfortunately these demographic distinctions are lost on most children.
Catherine asked Oliver not to talk about the fact that he’s going to the Festival this weekend because she knows that a lot of the kids in his class can’t afford to go. That’s just wrong.