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Pricier Passport to Unity event elevated in place of Bon Soo banquet

Entry to the Passport to Unity cultural event used to be included with a Bon Soo button. This year, it has been reconfigured to a $100-a-plate gourmet dinner with limited tickets available
Entry to the annual Passport To Unity event was once included with a Bon Soo button. This year it is being held as a $100-a-plate gourmet dinner. James Hopkin/SooToday

A longtime cultural event that has been an important part of the Bon Soo festival for years is going to have a different look this year, but with a limited number of tickets and a price increase fewer people will be able to experience it.

Passport to Unity began as its own community event created by Sault Community Career Centre, but in 2016 was rolled into the Bon Soo Winter Carnival. This year it is being held Feb. 4 at the Machine Shop.

In the first year it was included in the festival, the cost to attend was $1 at the door of the GFL Memorial Gardens (then known as the Essar Centre), or free with a Bon Soo Button. Attendees could purchase tickets, which they would redeem at various booths to sample cuisines from around the world.

The following year, in 2017, the event moved from the arena to the Machine Shop.

For this year's event, attendees must purchase tickets for $100 a plate, with a limited number of tickets available. After fees and taxes, each ticket costs a total of $120.75.

Attendees will receive a gourmet tasting menu from various world cuisines prepared by a number of chefs while being entertained by dancers and other presentations.

Josh Ingram, the city’s area coordinator for special events and sports tourism, said the Bon Soo steering committee identified Passport to Unity as being an event that could take the place of the banquet that was once a signature event for the winter carnival.

“Because it’s the sixtieth anniversary and we don’t necessarily have a banquet for the sixtieth anniversary we thought we would elevate that event," said Ingram about the new direction for Passport to Unity.

Ingram acknowledges some people may get priced out of the Passport to Unity event because of the new ticket price, but said there is a schedule of over 130 events that has been vastly expanded over and above what was offered at Bon Soo in more recent years.

Tourism Sault Ste. Marie stepped in with cash and resources with a six-year commitment to get the festival back on its feet.

“We will do a little bit of repair work on its brand, expand some of its programming back to where it was in years past and after a six year period hopefully hand it right back to its board," said Ingram. 

As programming had diminished over the years, the Bon Soo organizers mostly focused their attention on events for young children, said Ingram. This year, programming has been expanded to include multiple events per day for all age categories.

This year, Bon Soo will have three major areas of activity: the Clergue Park skating trail, the Canal District and activities for adults aged 19 and up at Northern Superior Tap Room.

Bon Soo buttons are $10 each.

“We have nine days of programming, with a massive amount of it being free," said Ingram. "We really feel $10 is fair."

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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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