New venue, same excitement—northern youth return to PAGC Fine Arts Festival

Students from Wapawikoscikan School in Pelican Narrows perform a line dance during a group dance competition at the 2022 PAGC Fine Arts Show.

Jason Kerr
Northern Advocate

Roberta Halkett was nervous getting up on stage, but she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Students from Kimosom Pwatinahk Collegiate in Deschambeault Lake, Sask. perform during the group creative dance competition

Halkett, a Grade 10 student at Senator Myles Venne School in Air Ronge, was just one of more than 800 northern youth who arrived in Prince Albert for the annual Prince Albert Grand Council Fine Arts Show from May 16-19. She said performing in front of a crowd can be nerve-wracking, but after so much time away from live singing and dancing, she’s not complaining.

“I usually get anxiety with how many people are around, but I just fought my fears,” said Halkett, who took top spot in the Creative Individual Dance competition. “(Being centre stage) made me feel shy, but I just thought about my dad, kokhum, family, and friends.”

Students like Halkett have waited two years to compete at the PAGC’s signature youth arts event following cancellations in 2020 and 2021. They then faced an additional hurdle after the traditional venue—the Allen Bird Memorial Centre—was destroyed by fire in April.

Instead of the Allen Bird stage, students took to a makeshift dance floor at the Ches Leach Lounge in the Art Hauser Centre. It’s not as large a venue, but the youth on hand were just happy to compete.

“It’s just fun,” said Mariam Charlette, a Grade 7 student with Sally Ross School in Hall Lake. “I like having fun.”

Grade 7 student Nathan Bell from Senator Myles Venne Schoolin Air Ronge performs during the individual creative dance competition during the 2022 PAGC Fine Arts show.

While 800 youth may seem like a large group, it’s actually a low turnout for the PAGC Arts Festival. At its peak, the event draws around 1,700 students and chaperones for jigging, square dancing, and choir competitions, among others.

Organizers say they’re hoping to return to regular numbers in 2023. For now however, the students involved are just happy to be there, no matter how big it is.

“It’s really important,” Halkett said. “It was fun.”

@kerr_jas •