Organizers of the Long John Jamboree say they are hopeful the event will go ahead in 2019 – but won’t know for sure until January.
The annual festival on the ice of Yellowknife Bay took a significant financial hit after a full day was wiped out by high winds in March this year.
With some bills from the 2018 festival still unpaid, the Jamboree is scrambling to find the money and volunteers needed to stage what will almost certainly be a scaled-down 2019 edition.
“We’re still planning to have a Jamboree at the end of March,” Michelle Demeule, the Jamboree’s president, told Cabin Radio.
“The major challenge is, last year, a weather-related event caused us to have our beer garden and our entire site shut down,” Demeule continued.
“We lost about $20,000, which is money we did not have in our bank to pay bills with – so we are still kind-of in the hole about that kind of money.
“We are hoping it’s going to go ahead, but we are not going to know anything for sure until later in January, once we know what our fundraising situation looks like.”
Regroup for 2020?
Demeule compared the Jamboree’s situation to that of the neighbouring Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous, which reportedly lost a similar sum last year and has subsequently had to scale back some of the coming year’s events.
The Long John Jamboree is planning similar reductions to its program. As an example, the ice carving contest – while still sponsored by diamond mining giant De Beers – is set to offer fewer than last year’s 14 carving teams.
However, the immediate concern for the Jamboree is settling its outstanding debts and recruiting volunteers. If that does not happen by January, organizers could pull the plug on a 2019 edition (which is currently set for March 29-31).
“If we don’t have people to come and help sponsor or volunteer, there won’t be a Jamboree. I’ve heard from a lot of people who have said they don’t want to see the Jamboree dying off like this,” said Demeule.
“If it’s a situation where we have to step back for a year to regroup for 2020, that’s something we’ll have to assess by the end of January. But we are hopeful we will have enough support to pay down some debt and put on a nice, smaller event this year that’s fun for everybody.”
The Jamboree has been successful in some grant applications for 2019, but is holding the money as it must be repaid if the event does not go ahead.
“I am getting so many inquiries from people, especially southerners and tourists, who are asking when the Jamboree will be and saying they want to come for the Jamboree,” said Demeule, a board member for most of the past decade.
“I think we do have to put on an event – it’s just going to have to be the most cost-effective thing we could ever do.
“It’s going to be a really tough year.”