Michelle Demeule, Long John Jamboree president (right), seeks solace from Penny, the Cabin Radio office puppy, on March 25, 2019. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The Long John Jamboree’s president promised a “full slate of events” this weekend despite the festival’s relocation from Yellowknife Bay to the fieldhouse parking lot.
The decision to move venue was taken at the weekend, in response to safety concerns over the impact of recent warm weather on the bay’s ice.
Organizers are now urging residents to turn up for the Jamboree despite any misgivings about its new location – and buy a button to make a difference.
“Jamboree buttons are for sale for $5. For our evening events in the beer garden, if you have a button, you get in for free – if you don’t, just buy a button and then you’re in,” said Michelle Demeule, the Jamboree’s president.
Demeule said the buttons will also help to gauge visitor numbers, providing a valuable metric as the festival applies for future funding grants and attempts to offset any potential financial loss brought on by this year’s late change of plan.
“There will still be something for everybody in the family to do – it just won’t be as nice as the bay, but it’s still Yellowknife,” Demeule told Cabin Radio.
“We’re northerners, we’re resilient. We adapt to change. So we’re hoping that everyone will just jump on board, come down, and help us out.”
The Jamboree’s relocation follows the premature closure of Snowking’s Winter Festival, a week ahead of schedule, after a March heatwave wreaked havoc with that festival’s venue – a Snowcastle constructed on the frozen bay. Areas were deemed too unsafe, through a combination of melting snow and floodwater, for the castle to continue operating.
Ordinarily, the Jamboree is held next door to the Snowcastle on the final weekend of March.
“Watching the Snowking’s castle kind-of melt and crumble was very disheartening, because last year, the Jamboree was a complete mess on the Saturday [when high winds closed down the site]. It was very, very stressful knowing that our event was going to lose money,” said Demeule.
“There was no way we could go out and just say we were cancelling the entire event [in 2019] because we’ve already sunk money into the event for this year – we already have international ice carvers getting on planes tomorrow to fly to Yellowknife.
“Cancelling one more event would be like a kick to Yellowknifers, saying we just can’t adapt to it. The Snowking is on ice, he can’t move his castle, but we can move our event, thankfully, and we haven’t set anything up yet. So we still have time to get it set up for everybody.”
Demeule said the fieldhouse parking lot, on the other side of the downtown, was one of three options presented to organizers by the City of Yellowknife after an urgent phone call last week.
The other two potential sites were the Folk on the Rocks festival space near the city’s airport, or the Somba K’e Civic Plaza outside City Hall.
“Somba K’e Park is lovely, but we don’t want to ruin their really lovely landscaped lawn, so we decided we couldn’t do it there – and parking would be an issue,” said Demeule.
“Folk on the Rocks is also a great location but, at this time of year, it’d be total mud out there.
“We wanted to keep it very accessible, clean, buses can run, no ice – the fieldhouse was the location for us. The lot is bigger than our current site, it has access to power and some lights, there’s lots of parking on site, the buses will run down there, we can invite the seniors down and they won’t slip on the ice.
“So although it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as being on Yellowknife Bay with the float planes and the houseboats and the Snowcastle, we just had to pull the pin and say, for security and safety reasons, we’re going to do it at the fieldhouse this year.”