Goodbye and Thank You
On the eve of Jim Newman's retirement from Lamont County as Economic Development Manager, it's time to tell his story as it relates to Babas & Borshch. In December 2012 I thought I should meet this new hire because I'd been coordinating the Doors Open Event for the County, feared it had run its course, and wanted to find out where he stood on it. He agreed it was time for a change and sent me home to come up with a new proposal....so while you were opening Christmas presents and welcoming in the New Year, I was at home pacing and wracking my brain.
I returned in early January to suggest a 2-day festival honouring the County's Ukrainian roots. He liked it. A week later I returned with 3 possible names and much to my delight (and relief) he also liked my first choice and so Babas & Borshch Ukrainian Festival was born. Two hundred and twenty-seven days later we opened the Andrew Community Centre doors to a large and appreciative crowd of Ukrainians and 'wannabes.'
In many ways, especially in the early years of our existence, I considered Jim the co-parent of the festival. That first year, I spent countless hours staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night wondering what in the world I'd gotten myself into. During one of our frequent meetings, Jim admitted he too was losing sleep over our grand scheme. I guess it's that whole new parent thing. But that first and subsequent response to and support for the festival was so encouraging and gratifying, we're still at it, albeit with a new County liaison, Sara Rindero, FCSS Manager.
As Festival Coordinator what I most appreciated about Jim was his enthusiasm and work ethic. He's a manager and a man who knows how to roll up his sleeves and do whatever he can to help. He doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk. I often said it was fortunate that we were never both discouraged at the same time; one of us always picked the other up and kept up a brave and positive face even as we worried about operating funds, securing talent, advertising and promotion. If we built it, would they come?
Jim likes to say he's Ukrainian for 3 days a year. I beg to differ. Based on his love of Ukrainian food and the fact, that in certain crowds, he introduces himself as Jim Newmanski say otherwise. Within Lamont County, he was the staff person who pushed to have the "cradle of Ukrainian settlement in Canada" distinction recognized and promoted. He allocated part of his budget for Ukrainian celebrations and commemorations including the first 125 Settlers plaque outside the Admin Building. He thought we should have a float in the K-Days parade and we did. When we did Media Launches in Edmonton, he was there. When we had 2 or 3 grueling days of set-up, he was there. When we did a tasting in Edmonton as we considered a new caterer for the Zabava, he was there. Oh yes! It was his suggestion that we apply for recognition from the Economic Developers of Alberta Association which we subsequently won. If you attended the festival, you'd have seen him wearing a deep blue golf shirt over bright yellow pants...a walking Ukraine flag!
All those efforts, suggestions, and encouragement helped shape what Babas & Borshch has grown into. He can now retire knowing that the long talked about plans we had for twinning Lamont County with Nebyliv, the village in Ukraine from which the first settlers came, are happening.
Thank you, Jim for the mark you made. Enjoy a well-deserved retirement with many, many rounds of golf in your future and time well spent with family. Na Zdorovlia!