Winter Festival co-chairs honoured to take on roles

Lawrence Joseph and Don Mitchell named as honorary co-chairs of 2021 festival

Don Mitchell (left) and Lawrence Joseph emceed the Christmas Show event which livestreamed on Dec. 22 (Submitted Photo/Trina Joseph).

Lawrence Joseph and Don Mitchell have been friends for many years and have shared the stage together at numerous events around the city, and they’ll do so again at the Winter Festival.

The two men have been named as honorary co-chairs of the 2021 event. Both have been heavily involved within the community throughout their lives.

Joseph served in many roles as a school board trustee, city councillor and as Chief of Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.

He has fond memories of the Winter Festival, raising his family in Prince Albert.

“It seems to be a very warm greeting for not only Prince Albert but the larger community, especially the north,” Joseph said.

“Doesn’t matter if it’s 40 below they still come out and it’s quite the testament for how resilient and powerful our people are when they plan to get together as families,” he added.

Joseph was asked to perform at the festival in past years and was a part of team that initiated the Country North show.

In an interview with the Herald, Joseph praised past and current volunteers including stagehands that design sets, sound and equipment crews.

“It was a total community effort and that is what the festival is all about, it’s a community effort, placing Prince Albert at the forefront to show the world literally what we can do as a small town, small community.”

Joseph’s family members are also involved with the festival, his daughter Trina Joseph helps to organize the event and his other daughter Sheryl Kimbley started the Voices of the North.

The Winter Festival has largely moved to virtual events, but Joseph says he wants to show that the pandemic won’t “beat us down to the point we can’t do anything.”

Joseph also praised the donations and sponsorships from Malcolm Jenkins and Canadian Tire.

“The money that he gives to make things happen, not everybody does that,” Joseph added that without Jenkins’ contributions, it would be difficult to put on any show.

He also explained that residents don’t have to contribute money to be involved with the festival.

“You can get out and just roll up your sleeves and just say ‘what can I do’,” he said.

Joseph said he and Mitchell go back many years through their community involvement such as taking part in shows at Canada Day and Founder’s Day events.

Mitchell says that the two have been friends for a long time and emceed a lot shows together.

“He likes me more that I like him,” Mitchell jokes.

In addition to shows in Prince Albert, Joseph and Mitchell have also travelled to reserves to put on shows.

“When we’d do those shows he usually said things about me in Cree and of course I can’t understand what he’s saying but everybody’s laughing so I don’t think I even want to know what he was saying,” Mitchell added.

Mitchell has also been involved in the Prince Albert community, covering many events in his broadcasting career with CTV and CKBI radio. He also served on the Winter Festival Board and directed the Country North show for a couple of years.

Mitchell and Joseph taped the Christmas Show together earlier this month, which was streamed in lieu of the Tux N Toques annual event. The festival staff are being careful with health and safety precautions, Mitchell added.

He said the Christmas Show was the first Joseph and he emceed together for a while and it was “a lot of fun.”

Mitchell hopes he and Joseph can promote the festival more and see people that they haven’t seen in a while. He said he’s made good friends through his involvement with the festival.

He thanked the festival committee for asking him to co-chair the event this year and says it’s an honour to do so.

“Let’s support the winter festival and get out there and buy those buttons and let’s make it as successful as possible,” Mitchell added.

The Winter Festival will be held Feb. 6 to 21, including virtual events that will be streamed online and some outdoor events.