Hello! This is the third edition of Hello Neighbour, a blog series that shines the spotlight on the faces behind your favourite Downtown Saskatoon businesses! Today we’re featuring Darcie Young, General Manager of the Nutrien Children’s Festival of Saskatchewan! Let’s sit down with her and learn about one of the driving forces behind this adored Downtown Saskatoon festival.

Q. First + foremost, tell us a bit about yourself, neighbour!

A: I was born and raised in Unity, Saskatchewan but moved to Regina when I was 12.  After high school, I started university at the U of R and then transferred to the U of S, but I wasn’t really sure what career path I wanted to go down.  So, I decided to take a year off and head to Paris on an exchange program to study French. While there, I got into a theatre troupe and I immediately fell in love with the stage!  From Paris, I went on to study Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and stage, tv, and film at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC. Shortly afterward, I branched off into production and have been working in arts management and production ever since.  I moved back to Saskatoon in 2015 and it felt so good to be home!  The city has grown tremendously and I’m really enjoying raising my children here with my husband.

Q: Tell us a bit about the Nutrien Children’s Festival of Saskatchewan. What’s the event’s history? 

A: I have the best job in the world!  I am fortunate enough to be the General Manager of the Nutrien Children’s Festival of Saskatchewan.  The Children’s Festival has been around for 33 years and has been so well-loved over those years.  We are the first festival in the summer to really kick off the summer season in Saskatoon. At the end of May/beginning of June (depending on the year) we welcome over 10,000 children, parents, caregivers, and teachers to Kinsmen Park for four days of inclusive play, learning, and friendship.  It’s such a wonderful organization to work for!

Q: What do you enjoy about working in Downtown Saskatoon?  

A: Downtown Saskatoon is still really the heart of Saskatoon.  Our festival is held in Kinsmen Park so we wanted to make sure our office was located in Downtown Saskatoon as well.  It’s hard to beat the warm, sunny weekends and the long summer nights on the banks of the Saskatchewan River, sitting on the patio of any of the wonderful downtown restaurants, or enjoying our amazing downtown parks.

Q: How is your business coping with the pandemic and how can people support you best?

A: The pandemic hit the arts really hard.  We are a charity and rely on donations, grants, sponsorship, and, in previous years, ticket sales.  When Covid-19 really hit the city in March of 2020, we looked at all the options and felt that we needed to come up with a way to still offer the children of Saskatoon and Saskatchewan some fun and consistence during a period of time that has been really scary and confusing for so many children.  So, we moved our programming virtual last year and are doing the same again this year.  And given how many families are struggling right now, we are offering the entire festival free of charge.  Not only to does this allow us to ensure as many children as possible can take part in the festival, it also presents us with the opportunity of bringing the festival to all four corners of the province.  Essentially, we wanted to throw a four-day party for the children of Saskatchewan and make sure everyone was invited and able to attend.  Donations are greatly appreciated and we hope that people not only take part in our programming but also spread the word so that more children can join in the fun. 

Q: Describe a working day in the life of Darcie.

A: It varies really.  I’m always thinking about programming so a lot of my time in the off-season is spent looking for new and creative forms of artistic story that speak to the children of our community.  In addition, securing sponsorship and funding is a constant job.  During the other six months of the year, we are gearing up for the festival which is both exciting and chaotic. That means confirming artists, staff, and vendors, and basically building a temporary village in Kinsmen Park.

Q: What is something about the festival that most people would be surprised to know?

A: Although we have moved virtually these past two years because of the ongoing pandemic, we are aware the not all households have access to the internet or a device to take part in our performances and workshops. So, we created a program called our Swag Bag Program: we collect, package, and send out 2,000 gift bags across the province to make sure as many children as possible can take part in our programming.  This is our way of ensuring all children feel important, heard, and included.

Q: If you could have a glass of wine with one person (from present or history), who would it be and why? 

A: That’s a tough one! I’d say it would be a toss-up between David Bowie, Katharine Hepburn, and Maya Angelou.

Q: What is the festival’s greatest success so far? 

A: 33 years of diverse and inclusive programming for the children of Saskatchewan.  I think that such a long history is pretty amazing and says a lot about the quality of the programming the festival offers as well as the talents and hard work of my predecessors, our Board of Directors, our staff and the countless number of volunteers that give so freely of their time and belief in our programming. 

Hello Neighbour is a new Downtown Saskatoon initiative that shines the spotlight on the people in our district – because it’s them who make it all happen! Get to know more of them here.