The 78th-annual Rainy River District Festival of the Performing Arts saw great support during its “Highlights Concert” that featured youths from across the district singing, playing an instrument, or acting out a scene last Tuesday night at the Townshend Theatre here.
“Tonight was fantastic," enthused Festival chairman David Schwartz. "We had a good turnout and it went really smooth.”
He said it was astounding to see the level of talent and commitment the participants reflected in their performances.
“I'm very impressed with the quality of performances these kids have brought tonight,” Schwartz said.
"Once they get on stage, it's amazing the poise that they have.
“I went up myself once and it's very nerve-racking, but these kids just get up there and knock it right out of the park,” he added.
Rose Bowl winners Mika Kooistra and Jacob Erickson enjoyed giving their performances, and are thankful to have an outlet like the Festival of the Performing Arts to showcase their musical talent.
“For me, this is the only competition or event that we have around,” said Erickson, who hails from International Falls, Mn.
“It's just a great opportunity for people to get involved in music and it really shows the work that everybody puts in here,” he added.
“It's pretty amazing.”
“It gives everyone an opportunity to celebrate and to really be a part of the community of the arts in Fort Frances,” echoed Festival organizer Marie Brady.
The Festival is a time of the year when the countless nights of practice finally pay off, noted Kooistra
Last year, she won the Rose Bowl for piano and felt very fortunate to be able to compete provincially in Manitoba.
“To come from this district and be able to go on a little bit further through this Festival is a really cool opportunity,” Kooistra enthused.
The talent of some participants also crosses over between musical disciplines.
Kooistra is one of those—having won the piano Rose Bowl in 2017 and the instrumental Rose Bowl this year.
Brianna Eldridge is another multi-talented musician who was awarded for her singing at this year's Festival after having won the piano Rose Bowl in 2016.
Many of these young performers also have musical talent in their blood.
“We have very, very talented folks in the community and it runs in the families, too,” Brady noted.
“You'll see the Kooistra girls are sisters and the two Erickson boys are brothers.”
Schwartz, meanwhile, is glad to provide youth in the district with music opportunities through the Festival, noting his own family has benefited from the annual event.
“My daughter [Anna] is going into music next year and I know each year there seems to be one or two kids who are pursuing music,” he remarked.
Schwartz sees value in the arts and is happy to be able to run a festival such as this in his community.
“I'm a big supporter of the arts and I'm very happy to see the Festival continue as it is,” he said.
“Kids are getting busier and busier these days, and the fact that we can still run the Festival over the course of three weeks just says how important the arts and performing arts are to the community.”
Schwartz also is grateful to have such great community support, and would like to thank everybody who helped out.
“We could not have done this without the financial support of the community and the volunteer time,” he noted.
“It is so very important because without [the support], we couldn't of run it,” he stressed.
“There's no way I could do this by myself. It takes many, many people coming together.”
Schwartz always enjoys this time of the year and looks forward to staging the Festival again in 2019.