History of the Festival
The Lacombe and District Music Festival Association was formed in the fall of 1981 and the first festival was held March 29 to April 2, 1982 under the sponsorship of the Lacombe Lions Club, who gave a $250.00 donation to get the festival started and also supplied us with the use of an office and phone for that week. The first festival had a total of 502 entries with an estimated 1450 contestants taking part in Vocal, Choral, Piano, Accordion, Band & Instrumental, Handbells and Speech. It was considered to be a very successful event and Lacombe was approved to became a member of the Provincial Association and became eligible for funding in the future. The LDMFA was thought of in a casual way but became a very serious and strong force in the community. There was a lot of talent in the performing arts among the young people of Lacombe at that time and they were strong contenders in every category at the annual Kiwanis Music Festival in Red Deer. Many of the competitors from Lacombe went on from the Red Deer Festival to become provincial winners in Piano, Vocal and Instrumental classes and in some cases went on to National Festival.
A piano teacher in Lacombe, Sylvia Gillespie, spent many hours driving with her students to the Red Deer and Stettler festivals and also accompanying on the piano the host of entries from the Lacombe Elementary School motivated annually by Frankie Albers and Noreen Hopkins. It was on a return trip from the Stettler Festival in 1981, driving with parents of one of her students that Sylvia Gillespie commented that it was time we had our own festival in Lacombe so that we didn't have to spend so much time driving. Parents Gus & Elsie Jautz agreed and without further "ado" a meeting was set up to determine the interest. There was much enthusiasm from a small group of people and a strategy was agreed upon. Representatives from Lacombe, Gus & Elsie Jautz, Sylvia Gillespie and Jeanne Carson visited the Stettler Festival organizers who advised on process and organization. The Lacombe Festival owes much of its initial success to the volunteers from the Stettler group. Gus Jautz presented a proposal to the Lions Club who agreed to become the festival sponsor and who then donated the first major trophy. The LDMFA was incorporated on February 9, 1982. and the first executive consisted of President Gus Jautz, Vice-President Darrel Neal, Secretary Jeanne Carson, Assistant Secretary Myrtle Pallister and Treasurer Elsie Jautz. Fundraising initially was literally a “knocking on doors” campaign until the idea for an annual Dinner Theatre was realized and thus became the major fundraising event. In addition to using the money for scholarships in the festival, a matching grant was applied for and a baby grand piano was purchased. This piano is located at the Lacombe Memorial Centre where competitions and the Grand Concert for the festival are held.
The early festivals included dance but this was later dropped as the dance groups had conflicts with their own programs. Fiddling was also included for a few years, then dropped, but has been part of the festival again for the past four years. Both these disciplines have been revived in the past year and the festival committee looks forward to seeing continued growth in both dance and fiddle. In the beginning most of the entries came from the Town of Lacombe itself, but through the years the festival has become a focal point for the performing arts for the surrounding areas, including Delburne, Benalto, Sylvan Lake, Rimbey, Blackfalds, Lacombe, Bentley, Rocky Mountain House, Mirror, Ponoka, Tees, Clive, Red Deer, Rosedale Valley and Alix.
Facilities we have utilized over the years are the Lacombe Memorial Centre, Lacombe Composite High School, J.S.MCCormick Elementary, and the Upper Elementary Schools, United Church, Christian Bethel Reformed Church, Free Evangelical Church, Pentecostal Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Burman University. Major Awards are: The Lacombe Lions Aggregate Trophy & Award, The Don Walker Memorial
Trophy & Award, Lacombe Lions Community Band Scholarship, The Frankie Albers Award, St, Andrews Memorial Scholarship, Rotary Club of Lacombe Trophy & Scholarship, The Dick Gillespie Trophy & Scholarship, The Leona Soley Scholarship, Esoteric Holdings Ltd. Trophy & Award, The Anna Maria Kaufmann Scholarship, and the Shoestring Players Award. Trophys: Royal Bank Trophy, Fountain Tire Trophy, The Ralph Craig Memorial Trophy, The Lacombe Centre Mall Merchants Assoc. Trophy, The Ryan Lee Rice Memorial Award, Shoppers Drug Mart Trophy, The Lacombe Lions Community Band (John Fredeen) Trophy, Sylvia Gillespie Trophy, Lacombe Music Festival Assoc. Trophy.
We continue to grow, trying new computer programs, instituting newsletters to all teachers in the area, being sensitive to requests for non-competitive classes and forming a supportive relationship with local and newspapers and media outlets. For our performers, this festival each spring is eagerly anticipated. The number of Provincial recommendations and professional performers remains a statement of the calibre of our teachers and participants. Yes, Lacombe and District Performing Arts Festival plays an important part in the life of our community.