Thursday, 04 January 2018 10:05

Florizone brings a lot of passion to role as the new festival organizer in Swift Current

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When Sheri Florizone, the recently appointed executive director at Cultural Festivals in Swift Current, decided to look for a new challenge, she did not think an opportunity will become available only four days after leaving her previous job.

Florizone has been working as the new Cultural Festivals executive director since Oct. 1, 2017, when she took over the responsibilities for some key cultural events in the city from Shann Gowan, who decided to retire after 15 years of being closely associated with the Windscape Kite Festival and Long Day's Night music festival, as well as the Blenders concert series and the StirCrazy Blues festival.
For Florizone, who is passionate about arts and culture, her new position is a dream come true. She has worked at the City of Regina for over 13 years and she was also the chair of the Cathedral Village Arts Festival in Regina since 2016.
“There's a number of other organizations I volunteered with in the past, and I had been for some time thinking about what do I really want to do, what do I really like to do, and it was the festivals, event planning, organization, working with the community to bring something really special,” she said. “So the more I thought about that, the more I started to think that this was a real opportunity. Not everybody gets the chance to do what they love and get paid for it, and so here was this opportunity to do what I was already in a small way doing, festival organization, and get paid for it. How could you say no to that?”
She learned about the position in Swift Current and met Gowan while attending a workshop for festival organizers in Regina in early August, only a few days after stepping away from her job at the City of Regina.
“At the time, when I first met Shann, I didn't realize how much she had built, and that it was her that had built it, and this amazing community that supports what's being done with the kite festival and Blenders and Long Day's Night and everything in-between,” Florizone said.
Shortly afterwards she and her husband went on a holiday trip to the United States, and while travelling through Illinois on their way to Tennessee she spoke over her cellphone with Gowan to ask more questions about the position in Swift Current.
“I just had some questions about the community support, what does it look like when Shann Gowan leaves and steps away,” Florizone recalled. “That was my number one question. ... You really need a supportive community, and that became clear to me and it made me feel a lot more comfortable to come and make that leap and make that move here to Swift Current.”
The initial few months in her new position presented many challenges, as she was initially commuting between Swift Current and Regina while getting familiar with all the details of her job. She and her husband moved to their new home in Swift Current towards the end of November. She has already hosted four Blenders concerts between October and December. The Christmas break gave her some time to recharge before the start of 2018, when the Blenders concert series will resume and she will also start to work on the preparations for the Windscape Kite Festival.
“The timing has worked out fairly well, the fall, and Shann did so much preparation that I really was able to just walk into the position,” she said.
Her main goal during the first year in this position is the successful completion of the 2017-18 Blenders  series and to ensure the 2018 Windscape Kite Festival and Long Day's Night music festival are also a success.
“It's interesting, when you start a new job, often the learning curve is daunting and it can easily start to feel like what have I taken on, who did I think I was that I could do this job, but then sometimes it's just because everything is so new,” she said. “It takes extra time, and so I have to keep reminding myself. Yes, it's hard now, but it won't always be. It will always be a lot of work, don't get me wrong, that will never change, but it won't always feel so new and there won't be such a steep learning curve to everything, and I look forward to that.”
She brings a lot of diverse experience to the position. She worked for two years as a research assistant at the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment before joining the City of Regina in September 2003, where she held a number of positions, but her main role was as sustainability outreach coordinator to advance the City's environmental sustainability goals through education and outreach initiatives. That work experience provided her with a lot of transferable skills for her present position in Swift Current.
“A lot of what I was doing was education and outreach, event planning, volunteer management, and stakeholder relationships” she said. “They almost directly transfer over in a very neat way to this kind of festival planning. You still got your volunteer management, you got your stakeholder relations with your sponsors and your important partners, and then there's finances and administration, which that experience comes more from my non-profit experience.”
She has been actively involved with various non-profit organizations in Regina. She was a member of Bike Regina for eight years, she was a volunteer tutor for English as a second language at the Regina Public Library for over two years, in 2016 she served on the communications subcommittee for Theatre Regina, and she was a volunteer at the Regina Folk Festival for 18 years.
She served as a member of the planning committee of the Cathedral Village Arts Festival, one of Regina's main arts festivals, since August 2014 and for the past two years she was the festival chair. She has always cared deeply about arts and culture, and considers it to be an integral part of life.
“Arts and culture is what makes filling the lines in the story book, it's the pictures in the story, it brings colour to life,” she said. .”Singing, dancing, music, art, creation, those are all the things that make life worth living.”
The second half of the 2017-18 Blenders concert series will resume on Jan. 27 at the Lyric Theatre with a performance by the Canadian blues rock act, the Kirby Sewell Band. For more information about upcoming performances, visit the Blenders website at

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Matthew Liebenberg


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