The 50th edition of the Estevan and District Music Festival came to an end with a celebration of the talent that was part of this year's festival, and a look back on the festival's rich history.
The annual highlights and awards program happened on April 15 at the Estevan Comprehensive School. Some of the top performers from the band, vocal, piano, speech arts and strings divisions showcased their talent during the program.
And more than $10,000 in cash prizes and scholarships were presented to top performers in each discipline.
“The performances tonight are specifically chosen as a sample of what we heard from each discipline during the two-and-a-half weeks of the festival,” said festival committee past-president Anita Kuntz, who emceed the program.
This year's festival featured a little more than 600 entries. The number is down from last year, Kuntz said, but they hope to reverse that trend in the coming years.
Numerous performers at this year's festival were selected to play at the provincial event in Saskatoon in early June: Matthew Grunert (intermediate brass); Morgan Jones (intermediate woodwind and intermediate piano); Christen Van de Woestyne (senior vocal); Jacqueline Peeace (senior vocal); Jacinta Mack (senior piano); Everett Schwab (senior brass); and McKenzie Warriner (senior vocal, senior piano and senior speech arts).
Warriner's performances earned her the local festival's Murray GM Award of Merit for Outstanding Performance in Multiple Disciplines.
The music festival also recognized two volunteers: Kuntz and Shirley Andrist. They were presented with volunteer medals at the provincial music festival convention last fall. Andrist is the only person to be presented with a provincial volunteer award in three separate decades.
Kuntz also discussed some of the festival's history. There were numerous attempts to start a local festival, and in 1965, the late Dr. John Seale, who was a long-time optometrist in the Estevan area, successfully spear-headed the effort to establish a music festival in the Energy City. There were 257 entries in the first year.
“Fifty years is a long time, and many people have come and gone during those years. Anniversaries such as this cause us to reflect on the past, where we have been, and also should have us looking forward to ensure that this event continues for the next 50 years,” said Kuntz.
Festival programs dating back to 1978 were also on display at the highlights program.
There have been times in which the event's future was in doubt, Kuntz said, but the festival has become a fixture in Estevan for 50 years, thanks to the volunteers who put in countless hours and the musicians who perform.