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'Novemberfest' deemed best yet

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The local museum will be able to continue to provide top-notch workshops for another year thanks to the Friends of the Fort Frances Museum.

Their annual wine, cheese, and beer fundraiser gala, entitled “Novemberfest,” drew a full house of more than 100 people last Thursday evening and raised at least $4,000 with the live auction alone—about $1,000 more than last year.

“The gala was a complete success; a fun-filled evening of entertainment, great food and beverages, and fundraising efforts," enthused "Friends” president Robert Schulz.

"To me, it enforces the notion that the long-term viability of the museum, and what it has to offer to the community, is very important.

“The gala proves that Fort Frances takes a back seat to no other community when it comes to fundraising,” he added.

“We are a very generous community.”

Schulz noted “Friends” volunteers worked very hard to make the gala an enjoyable evening and it truly paid off.

“We thank all who either attended and/or contributed in many ways to the success of our event,” he remarked.

"We couldn't have done this without you.

“We look to build on the success of this year's gala and make it even better next year,” he vowed.

Schulz said last year's gala paid for the refurbishing of the small tugboat, “the Owandem," which the Friends of the Museum hope to see on display near the "Hallett” next summer.

Funds raised this year will be used to support the continuing series of popular workshops the museum has been offering for the past two years, as well as community events such as “SnOasis"—the free family fun day the "Friends” puts on each winter.

The fun activities of the evening included beer stein-holding contests for men and women that elicited many cheers from the crowd. Lauen Hyatt emceed the contests.

Vance Dick won the men's contest after holding a water-filled beer mug aloft for five minutes, 33 seconds. Colleen Fawcett topped the ladies while besting the top men's time by three seconds—much to the delight of the audience.

The evening also featured a “beer ban," whereby anyone who said the "b-word" would be fined a loonie, which they would pay at the bar run by Schulz and fellow "Friend” Eric Fagerdahl.

The gala also featured a trivia game, a delectable spread of German fare provided by Flint House, live music courtesy of Jordie Baird, and a live auction with Kim Cornell on the mic to round up bids for 44 items donated by local businesses and individuals.

Museum curator Sherry George shared some thoughts Thursday on the positive impact of culture on the economy and why cultural hubs like the museum is worth supporting.

She noted a recent national study indicated the estimated direct economic impact of Canada's culture was $61.7 billion in 2014, far outstripping agriculture, hunting, fishing, accommodation and food services, and sports.

George explained that people's use of social media to share their cultural experiences, such as visiting a tourist site, results in others wanting to do the same.

That, and the fact many people are eager to spend money on having those experiences, has caused the increase in culture's value as an industry.

She posited that community leaders should not be “missing the boat,” and asking whether they're doing all they can to keep residents here and enjoying their lives?

The building of the Rainy Lake Square has given Fort Frances “a great start,” George remarked, but wondered what more can done to enrich the community for residents, and help draw new residents and tourists alike?

The museum began running workshops in the off-season two winters ago, and George has been amazed at how quickly they fill up.

“Sometimes, it's hours and the workshop is full,” she marvelled.

“We also have a ridiculously long waiting list. Sometimes we have three names for one spot,” she noted.

“And I would strongly suggest the reason for the interest is because there is a very strong need for something to do [here] that is not related to sports or the outdoors,” George added.

“We must remember that our community is aging and the need for socialization is very strong.”

These workshops, made possible due to fundraising by the Friends of the Museum, offer individuals not only opportunities to learn new skills but ensure heritage and traditional crafts do not die.

Most importantly, people are getting out with their friends, they're meeting new friends, and they're keeping their minds sharp and healthy, George stressed.

“Our museum is doing lots to keep our community engage but there's so much more we could be doing,” she noted.

“Our children also need to explore their creativity," she added. ”Other museums offer things like cemetery tours and 'escape rooms' that appeal to young people.

“Speaker series, evenings that explore other cultures and cuisines, fine art—these all happen in our regional museums and are opportunities for growth here,” George said.

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