More than a Film Festival

The Community Behind our Biggest Fundraiser of the Year

For the past two years, the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival has been a sold-out show at the historic Paramount Theater, breaking pre-pandemic attendance records. It’s a weekend of enthusiasm for the outdoors and celebration of both the human spirit and the natural world, bringing the adventurous Charlottesville community together in the center of downtown.  

 We’ve hosted the festival for the last nine years, and, as much as it’s grown and changed, some things have become tradition: 

Banff Adventurers arrive early to snag the best seats in the house before the doors officially open, reserving their space before making their way back into the hall for raffle tickets, free giveaways, merchandise, concessions, and conversation.  

General Admission ticketholders soon follow suit, and the gently sloping hallway becomes what we’ve affectionately termed “the Gauntlet” – a literal uphill battle towards the theater through throngs of familiar faces and opportunities to engage with friends, rangers, sponsors, volunteers, and staff. 

A group of volunteers in ranger hats pose with a large stuffed-animal black bear in an SNPT shirt at the Banff Film Festival.

Volunteers prepare to assist attendees on Saturday night. 

While it’s hectic and crowded, that hour between the doors opening and the lights going down is a critical piece of Banff as both a fundraiser and community event.

That hour sees the last major rush of event revenue, lifting us up to and past our fundraising goals. Every dollar spent on entry, raffle tickets, and merchandise supports critical programming in Shenandoah National Park. This year, Banff Film Festival attendees and sponsors raised more than $110,000 for Shenandoah, breaking last year’s record by more than 17%! 

The raffles alone brought in over $12,000, shattering last year’s $8,800 record! Great Outdoor Provision Co.’s Premier Raffle accounted for 42% of that total (congrats to winner Christine Sweeters!), and the other 58% was split between Saturday’s and Sunday’s traditional raffles. Thank you to all the raffle sponsors who donated their incredible goods and services to make this year’s raffle so successful! 

Beyond the fundraising aspect of the evening, that first hour is when friends find one another and claim seats together. It’s when attendees who have been coming to the festival for nearly two decades settle in for another year of what has become a family tradition. It’s when those who are feeling lucky line up for raffle tickets and hope for the best as intermission approaches. It’s when local residents engage with businesses in their community who sponsor the festival and make it possible for us to host here in Charlottesville year after year. 

In an anonymous post-event survey, attendees said… 

“It is a coming together of like minds. I always see friends there. I always enjoy the camaraderie.” 

“I’ve been going to the Banff Film Festival for at least 16-18 years, it is one of my favorite annual events. I even went to Banff one year to visit the home of the festival and I hope to go back for the actual festival! I love that we have it in Charlottesville so thank you for sponsoring it! I’m also a SNP frequent hiker so thanks for all that you do!” 

“Love seeing old friends at the film festival.” 

“Beautiful theatre! Enjoyed and films and the enthusiastic response of the audience. Overall vibe was upbeat and contagious.” 

“This was such a well-run and well put on event. Thanks to all the volunteers that made the event possible. I also loved the tabletops in the lobby. I found out about quite a few companies in the area I was not aware of (I moved here in Sept 2022). Thanks again!” 

“I left with a feeling of inspiration and renewal.”   

In that same survey, attendees left feedback on the films and experience as a whole, along with ideas about how to improve Banff in the future.  

SNPT Executive Director Jessica Cocciolone introduces the Trust and thanks sponsors at the festival. Photo credit: Chris Rief

Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Pat Kenney speaks to Banff attendees about their impact on the park before the films. Photo credit: Chris Rief

Next year will be our 10th Anniversary of hosting the Banff Film Festival here in Charlottesville, and it’s already shaping up to be our best year yet. While we can’t reveal everything we’re planning, we can say that we’re discussing the possibilities of a third night of films, a special speaker series leading up to the festival, a panel discussion, extra perks for Banff Adventurers, and more! 

As we keep looking for ways to grow the festival, we realize that any growth needs to have this community at the center of it. It will always be a fundraiser for the park. It will always be an exciting weekend of extreme sports, human endurance, and breathtaking landscapes. But we want to ensure that it will also always be a tradition, and one that’s unique to Charlottesville – unique to this group of people who want to spend a weekend of their year sharing a space and experience with like-minded individuals, gasping, cheering, and rooting for strangers around the world together.  

Thank you to all those who supported and attended Banff 2024 – your participation makes a difference in our park. 

Want to be part of building Banff next year? Join the planning committee by indicating your interest in our Volunteer Interest Form! 

If you attended and want to give us feedback, check your inbox for the email from us on March 4th and follow the link to the survey.

Thanks to our 2024 Banff Film Festival sponsors! For a full list of sponsors, check out our Banff event page.

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