Starting the conversation

Volunteer Ernie Sauve (right) hands out free crazy carpets donated by the Prince Albert Community Alcohol Steering Committee during Monday’s Prince Albert Winter Festival Family Day Sliding Party. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Just two years ago, Community Alcohol Strategy (CAS) Steering Committee volunteers weren’t just handing out free crazy carpets at the Prince Albert Winter Festival Family Day Sliding Party, they were also trying desperately to find more snow.

Thankfully, things were different in 2019. The annual Family Day event drew hundreds of families out for free hot dogs, hot chocolate, and sled rides down the snowy hills of Little Red River Park. It marked a significant, but welcome, change from previous years.

“The first year we actually brought shovels and we were shoveling snow from the side onto the hill so that people could slide down and we could get a few shots of people on their carpets,” steering committee coordinator Karen Anthony-Burns chuckled. “So this is fantastic. This is a winter wonderland out here today.”

Thanks to Anthony-Burns and a steady stream of CAS members and volunteers, a small army of children clutching bright green crazy carpets could be seen all over the hill. The CAS brought 350 of them to give away on Monday as a way to show their support for family friendly, non-alcohol activities.

This is the third year the CAS has helped out, and this year they’re hoping to use the event as a springboard for their new campaign called ‘Alcohol: Let’s Start the Conversation.’ The goal is to give parents the information they need to talk to youth and young adults about the dangers of binge drinking.

“There’s a lot of support from a lot of large organizations in the world who are telling us that alcohol is not that healthy for us,” Anthony-Burns said. “We feel that when people have the facts and the information, then they will make responsible choices.”

Anthony-Burns said awareness has started to increase around other alcohol-related issues like impaired driving. People are becoming more and more responsible for planning a safe ride home, she explained, either by getting rides from friends, or using promotional materials like the CAS winter festival cab coupons.

The steering committee is looking for a similar increase in discussions surrounding binge drinking. It’s just a matter of getting the information into the public’s hands.

“I think most people are open to discussing it,” she explained. “The one thing that we have found is that once you’ve given someone information, they can’t unlearn it, so that’s a positive. Sometimes it’s just that some people haven’t had those conversations.”

The CAS will continue to promote ‘Alcohol: Let’s Start the Conversation’ in the months ahead with a radio campaign and educational sessions. The organization also plans to attend local events like the Family Expo and Downtown Street Fair.