The Toonik Tyme Society in Iqaluit wants the city to once again take over the annual event, saying it struggles to retain enough volunteers to put on the spring festival. 

The annual festival, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, includes traditional Inuit games, throat singing, dancing, and a community feast.

Travis Cooper, president of the Toonik Tyme Society, said the group desperately needs help during a presentation to Iqaluit city council Tuesday night.  

In his three years as president, Cooper said the society has struggled with fundraising, event planning, volunteer recruitment and retention and maintaining a full roster of board members.

"Essentially, the Toonik Tyme Society, although very popular every year, lacks a sustained community buy-in," said Cooper.

"For a number of years, we have limped by, finding support from local businesses and some government funding to run events," added Cooper.

Money not the only issue

"It's not money that we are lacking, it's manpower that we are lacking," said Cooper.

Toonik Tyme 2015 - toss

Patty Sullivan, host of Kids' CBC, takes part in the blanket toss at the 2015 Toonik Tyme festival. 'It's not money that we are lacking, it's manpower that we are lacking,’ says Toonik Tyme Society president Travis Cooper. (Mary Ann Mazey/Twitter)

"People to go ahead and do all the background work, the stuff that nobody ever gets to see."

Cooper said although Toonik Tyme is billed as a cultural event there are only two Inuit on the board and the majority of the volunteers are newcomers to the city who burn out or leave.

"Simply, the turnover has become unsustainable," he said.

Cooper said the society will only have two board members by the time the spring festival is underway this year, when their bylaws stipulate that a minimum of five board members are required for the group to function.

Cooper said plans are already in motion for this year's festival. However, he wants the city to take over the festival in the future.

"What we suggest is a return to the Toonik Tyme Society and planning and running for the spring festival to the City of Iqaluit," said Cooper.

The transition plan

The transition plan proposed by the current Toonik Tyme board would involve streamlining the number of events the festival hosts. That would include scaling back on opening and closing events, offloading fundraising to the city, and handing off some sporting events to affiliated groups.

"Perhaps we need to help the Toonik Tyme association," said Romeyn Stevenson, Iqaluit's deputy mayor.

Stevenson said that it makes sense for the festival to be managed by the city once again.

"I think the struggles that they have, it seems obvious that it's not sustainable," he said. 

On average, the festival costs between $80,000 and $90,000 a year.