AuroraFest 150 wraps up with some music, dance and stunning photography

The organizers of AuroraFest 150 will finally get a chance to catch their breath now that festivities have officially came to a close.

Originally advertised as a “10-day party to celebrate Canada’s 150th,“the inaugural AuroraFest, which ran Sept. 15-24, featured a wide variety of musical acts, photography workshops and community events to help local residents celebrate the country’s unique wildlife and wilderness.

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While festival organizers showcased an impressive collection of performers and activities at the very beginning of this 10-day stretch, they saved some of the best events for last.

Of course, one of the biggest highlights of the past week-and-a-half was the co-ordinated effort to beat the Guinness World Record for group wolf howling on Sept. 21. In the end, approximately 2,033 Thompsonites gathered together at the Red Sangster Ball Field to smash the previous record of 803 people, which was set by a group from Niagara Falls.

“We were overwhelmed with the crowd that came in, which is really good thing,” said AuroraFest organizer Volker Beckmann, who later went on to explain that it will take a few weeks before they get an official response from Guinness.

Friday’s schedule featured its own fair share of highlights, as Juno Award nominee Don Amero took to the stage at R.D. Parker Collegiate to serenade the crowd with his unique brand of folk rock. In addition to playing some of his old favourites like “Turn These Grey Skies Blue,” Amero also performed “Church,” which is one of the lead singles off of his upcoming sixth studio album.

However, things started to wind down on Saturday at the Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre, as local residents and organizers gathered together for AuroraFest’s closing ceremonies.

In addition to featuring some Aboriginal hoop dancing, this ceremony also unveiled the winner of Aurora Photo Contest, as chosen by the people of Thompson. AuroraFest organizer Hugh Fraser ended up winning the big prize thanks to his snapshot of the Northern Lights over top of Pisew Falls.

During his acceptance speech, Fraser remarked that his favourite event from the past week-and-a-half was an aurora borealis photography workshop lead by photographer Adam Hill, since it embodied the reason why AuroraFest was put together in the first place.

“The way to uplift Thompson is to capture the natural beauty and spirit of the north, so that people would leave their troubles behind, look to the sky, look around them and appreciate what they have,” said Fraser.

Fellow organizer Marion Morberg also took the opportunity to thank wildlife filmmaker Matt Paproski and his film crew, who came all the way from Drumheller, Alberta to take part in AuroraFest from day one.

Outside of chronicling all of the festival’s events and performers for a future documentary, Paproski also brought along his timberwolves Aurora and Timber, who were put on display at the Boreal Discovery Centre for all the public to see.

“We’ve had such a remarkable week with the two wolves staying in our community. Our whole town has come out to see them,” said Morberg. “I was kind of concerned about bringing guests here, and how they would settle in, and they’ve been so happy to be in our space ... so I’m really delighted that they enjoyed themselves so much.”

Now that this year’s events are officially wrapped up, Beckmann said he and his fellow organizers are in the process of figuring out what shape AuroraFest will take in the future, since they won’t have access to another $48,500 Canada 150 grant.

“A standalone event would have to consider a number of other factors to see which parts would be done again and what scale it would be and how could it be self-sustaining,” said Beckmann. “So I think that’s a decision that’s another couple months down the road.”

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