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Powell River Festival of the Performing Arts marks 79 years

Rotary Club of Powell River has sponsored the event since 2003
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Dance is one of six disciplines for Powell River Festival of the Performing Arts. Registration closes on Tuesday, January 24.

It was 20 years ago that the Rotary Club of Powell River organized Powell River Festival of the Performing Arts for the first time.

Joyce Carlson was club president when the decision was made to take over the festival from a group of volunteers who were no longer able to continue to organize the event that was first held in 1945.

“We knew nothing about what a syllabus was and most of us did not have a musical background,” says Carlson, who has been the committee chair ever since. “What Rotarians can do is organize and provide volunteer hours.”

Hundreds of Rotarian and community volunteers have helped out over the past 20 years and for the entirety of the festival.

“This is a highlight of the cultural calendar for many,” adds Carlson, “and we are very appreciative of their efforts. Some people serving as adjudicators’ secretaries return year after year because of their love for this event.”

In 2020, the festival managed to hold its Grand Concert the weekend before BC and the world shut down because of COVID-19. In spite of the impact of the pandemic, the festival went ahead in a virtual format in 2021, and in 2022 used a limited audience format. However, it was able once again to hold an in-person Grand Concert.

“COVID had a huge impact on our registration, especially for the schools as teachers had so much to cope with,” explains Carlson. “We have always had so many registrations from School District 47 and independent schools in our choral and speech arts disciplines. There just was not the ability to participate.”

This year, Carlson says registrations are returning from schools which portends positively for the 2023 festival.

“School District 47 superintendent Jay Yule has been very supportive over the years and the district has paid for all the entries. He has once again been encouraging in having teachers and students participate.”

The festival committee also reaches out to independent schools: Assumption, Powell River Christian School and École Côte-du-Soleil as well as Partners in Education, which is overseen by SD47.

While the majority of registrations involve young people, adults are most welcome to participate. Many of the returning adults appreciate the recommendations of the adjudicators who offer ideas to improve performances.

“Last year our distinguished adjudicators were so appreciative to be at our festival in person instead of watching the performances via Zoom,” says Carlson. “You could feel their joy in listening to the performers in a hall rather than through a screen.

“This community is fortunate to have so many talented teachers who share their passion for fine arts with youngsters as young as six up to senior citizens. With the teachers’ skills and dedication of parents who want their children to have the benefits of cultural experiences, everyone gets to enjoy the offerings of the longest running festival in the region.”

Over the past 20 years, Carlson has vivid memories of many performances as she and others watch youngsters come back year after year, sharing their love of performing arts with audiences.

“Some of the participants have gone on to make a career out of music, dance or speech arts. In fact, just a few years ago, we had an adjudicator who had participated as a dancer in the very venue where she had performed as a youngster.”

Performances take place at Evergreen Theatre, James Hall at Powell River Academy of Music and Max Cameron Theatre. A full schedule will be available once registration concludes on Tuesday, January 24, at 4 pm.

Registrations and payments are done online at For more information, call Valerie Thompson at 604.413.0578.

This year’s festival starts February 24 and concludes March 4, when the Grand Concert takes place at Evergreen Theatre. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students 16 and under.

They will be available soon at the academy, 7280 Kemano Street, Monday to Thursday.