February 23, 2016 8:36 pm
Updated: February 23, 2016 8:50 pm

Calgary Zoo cancels ‘Tusks and Tails’ gala amid challenging times for charities

WATCH ABOVE: The Calgary Zoo has canceled one of its main fundraising events, The Tusks and Tails Gala. As Tony Tighe reports, it all has to do with the difficult economic times.

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A 16-year long tradition has come to a halt this year as the Calgary Zoo announced Tuesday it’s cancelling the annual “Tusks and Tails” gala.

The invite-only, black tie fundraiser was geared towards Calgary’s corporate elite, but in this economic climate, they’re not excluded from being forced to make some cutbacks.

Without big companies purchasing tables for the high-end event, the zoo couldn’t justify the spending or planning required to pull it off.

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“It just didn’t make a lot of sense to put the effort and time into a fundraiser and make people that normally come feel pressured when there isn’t that level of funding available out there in the community right now,” zoo spokesperson Trish Exton-Parder said.

Exton-Parder said Tusks and Tails isn’t disappearing forever, but it’s difficult to gauge when the city will be back on its feet, and able to support large-scale fundraising events.

“It’s not very predictable, what’s going to come down the pipe. I mean it’s anybody’s  guess,” Exton-Parder explained. “In the next couple of years we’ll have to wait this out and then revisit it…perhaps by the time we have the pandas in 2018.”

According to Dave Howard of The Event Group, not-for-profit events in the city are down approximately 20 per cent in what they’re able to raise in sponsorship. But Howard also says it’s not just the economy that’s to blame.

“Unless charities are changing their event, events have a shelf life in my opinion of about five years…they should expect their sponsorship and attendance is going to go down,” Howard continued. “It’s not just the tickets to a chicken dinner event, it should be something people want to attend, a high-profile event that is newsworthy that are friends of the media are going to attend and publicize.”

Wanting to provide just that type of event is the newly-created Wishing Well Wedding and Event Foundation.

The charity was formed to make wishes come true for terminally-ill adults and children including weddings, vow renewals and end of life celebrations.

The group’s inaugural event, “The Stars and Shamrocks Gala” is aiming to launch on a small scale, and then hopefully through experience, build the foundation over time.

“We always have high expectations but we also know with the economy the way it is…we’re not going to have a 500-person gala,” Lesley Plumley said. “We just want to keep it down low and keep it with a smaller number, and then grow every year. ”

Plumley says she and her board of directors don’t want attendees to just come for dinner and a silent auction.

“It’s actually going to be a really entertaining event. We have duelling pianos and we have the Heebee Jeebees performing…we want everybody to come and walk away having a fun time.”

The Stars and Shamrocks Gala will take place at the Calgary Zoo on March 17.

With files from Global’s Tony Tighe

© 2016 Shaw Media

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