By Scott Costen
The Privateer Days Commission filled three key vacancies last night during a meeting at Liverpool’s Town Hall Arts and Cultural Centre.
Catherine Croft was named chair of the group’s executive committee. Jessica Van Dyne-Evans, who was not present at the meeting, was elected vice-chair. Linda Rafuse was chosen as treasurer. All of them will serve as volunteers.
The paid executive director position, vacated by Brian Fralic Dec. 31, has not been filled. Nor has the volunteer role of executive committee secretary.
Fralic, a member of Region of Queens Municipality council, stepped down after a difficult 2018 festival that saw him on the receiving end of “angry texts,” “hate email” and other sources of stress. Much of the negativity he encountered was from local residents and business owners who were opposed to the participation of a Pride float in the annual Privateer Days parade.
Along with Fralic, all four executive committee members — chair Tanya Long, vice-chair Troy Smith, treasurer Frances Younker and secretary Debbie Page — announced their resignations effective Jan. 31.
Croft, a retired paramedic with experience in special events and marketing, said she stepped forward because Privateer Days is “a viable event that this community desperately needs.” She underscored the economic impact of the annual summer festival and its role in celebrating local history and heritage.
Croft said she’d like to get more young people involved in Privateer Days. She’d also like the festival to reconnect with local residents who no longer participate. “The whole community used to take part in this and now certain people don’t,” she said. One of her solutions is to hold “an old-fashioned picnic involving the community.”
During the meeting, Long said the South Shore Multicultural Association has indicated it may not participate in the 2019 Privateer Days event. Croft is hopeful the group will reconsider. She would also like to see increased Indigenous participation at the three-day festival.
Long indicated federal government officials visited Liverpool during last year’s Privateer Days festival. Widespread media attention about the Pride float controversy had made them concerned “that people weren’t being open-minded,” she said. In her view, the negative response from some members of the community could have put federal funding for the event in jeopardy. Fortunately, she said, officials were impressed with what they saw and left happy.