Organizers of the Alberta 55 Plus Summer Games held in Westlock and Barrhead last summer have wrapped up the last of the loose ends.
Approximately $340,000 worth of grants to community organizations was given out May 7 in Barrhead and May 8 in Westlock.
The decision about which groups would get the money was left mainly with the four host municipalities — Westlock, Westlock County, Barrhead and the County of Barrhead — except for $32,000 the games committee awarded directly.
The Clyde Ag Society, for example, was given $10,000.
“Clyde wasn’t one of the four municipalities, as such, but they came up and hosted half of the slo pitch,” said Games vice-chair Chuck Keller. “They did a tremendous job over there.”
After the $32,000 was awarded, that left about $77,000 for each member municipality to award as it saw fit.
The Town of Westlock awarded its share to a variety of local organizations; about half the money went to sports-related groups and the other half to local service clubs and community groups.
“We got an awful lot of applications for this money. We had more than $400,000 in requests and it was a difficult time,” mayor Ralph Leriger said. “They were all very worthy projects. We know they’ll do good things with that money for our communities.”
In the town, the biggest cheques went to the Westlock Minor Ball Association and the Westlock Lacrosse Association for a combined total of $25,623.
“Their grant application was jointly submitted to put netting in the fieldhouse so minor ball and lacrosse can use the fieldhouse without doing any damage to the wall,” Keller said.
Westlock County provided about $13,000 worth of grants to some local sporting and community associations, with the lion’s share — $64,023 — going to the Tawatinaw Valley Ski Club for improvements at the hill.
Typically with Alberta Games events, the amount of money available for legacy grants is significantly lower than what was made available in Westlock and Barrhead.
The reason there was so much surplus can be pinned down to two specific factors, said Keller.
First of all, while Games committees ordinarily get to work two casinos as fundraisers, the Westlock/Barrhead committee got to work three. Furthermore, because it’s a provincial organizations those casinos were worked in Edmonton as opposed to St. Albert — which means the difference between $18,000 and $75,000 per casino worked.
The second factor is that many budgeted items came in as donations-in-kind, yielding major savings for the committee.
“We did well out in the fields and in the activities, and I think we did really well financially,” Keller said.
Since the Games wrapped, there has been a lot of discussion in the community about the possibility of hosting another similar event.
Keller said he has heard a lot of talk about putting in a bid for the 2017 Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games — but he warned it may not be as easy to pull off a winter event, because accommodations were stretched pretty tight last time around.
The big difference would be with recreational vehicles — hundreds of participants last summer stayed in their campers during the event, which meant organizers had few billets to worry about.
“If we had to put up another 400 people, that means it would have to go directly into billeting,” he said. “Realistically if the area was to do it again, it would have to be a summer event similar to what we had this past year.”
Games chair Gerry St. Pierre, who is also now the mayor of Barrhead, said he feels it would be worthwhile to look at cooperatively hosting another similar event.
“Although we’re not eligible to host another such event for another five or six years, we will certainly join with the community of Westlock and do it again some day down the road,” he said.