One of only two communities in southern Alberta, residents of Duchess are hoping the southeast corner will get behind them in their bid to win the Small Town Saturday Night Contest this year.
The community, north of Brooks, just made the Top 10 finalists, above the only other southern Alberta community, the Crowsnest Pass, with 4,393 votes.
Now they are in the running for the honour of hosting a concert headlined by country star Gord Bamford which can be used as a fundraiser.
Tina Preston, along with help from Tracie Ion, are the duo responsible for Duchess being involved in the contest from the beginning.
“I knew the agricultural society was in need of funds. I saw (the contest) on Facebook and threw in an application minutes before the cut off,” says Preston.
The Small Town Saturday Night Contest is an initiative of the Big Valley Jamboree in honour of its 25th anniversary this year. First held in 2012 and then again in 2013, it was brought back by the Big Valley Jamboree organizers in honour of the special anniversary year.
Preston and Ion started telling people to vote for Duchess and used social media to spread the word. Their efforts paid off when voting closed mid-February, and they learned they were one of the Top 10 finalists.
Big Valley Jamboree organizers teamed up with Mount Royal University Broadcast Studies as well as the NAIT radio and television programs to deploy student teams to visit the 10 finalist communities and produce videos.
Filming in Duchess took place Feb. 21 in the community for about five hours. Preston says they were able to stage various shots including setting up a horse and wagon trail ride from the outskirts of the town to the hockey rink, as well as having a hockey game in the rink with players ranging in age from three to 15. There were other activities taking place at the arena including curling. The fire department even got into the action, showing how they respond when they are called to a fire.
The next stage in the contest is for the public to pick their favourite video from the 10 finalists and thus the winner of the concert. That voting starts March 13 at noon with the winner being announced March 28.
Voting takes place through the Big Valley Jamboree website at www.BigValleyJamboree.com.
The grand prize concert set for April 29 and headlined by Bamford, will include Danny Hooper as master of ceremonies as well as some of Canada’s finest country music entertainers. There will also be a songwriters circle to open the show comprised of artists yet to be announced.
The winning community can use the concert as a fundraiser to support a local charity or municipal initiative. Preston explains the agricultural society hosts an annual lobster feed dinner and this year’s event is set for April 29. If the community wins, it will tie in nicely with the fundraising dinner and concert event.
If Duchess isn’t successful, there will still be a reason to celebrate and raise money for the agriculture society that day as patrons can take part in the lobster feed.
Preston says officials from the Big Valley Jamboree help the winning community market the event, ensuring its success. She adds the local agricultural society can make use of funds raised for some big projects on its plate including updating the arena’s ice plant and renovating the kitchen in the hall to add new and more appliances as well as freshening up the space.
For Preston, the experience of entering the contest and keeping up the excitement for voting in the community has been a steep learning curve. It’s one she has appreciated though as she is currently studying fundraising and marketing for non-profit organizations. She’d like to embark on a new career in that area.
Residents of southeast Alberta and farther afield are encouraged to vote for Duchess in the Small Town Saturday Night contest starting March 13 at noon. People can vote once per day and the small community will need as many votes as possible to be successful.
The videos can be viewed online and voting takes place at: www.BigValleyJamboree.com.