Peel River Jamboree looking to forge ahead

Justine Vittrekwa
Justine Vittrekwa jigs in a still from her video submission to the Peel River Jamboree's online contest last year.

As annual spring-time celebrations across the NWT face cancellation, Peel River Jamboree organizers say they hope to press ahead with a mix of online and in-person events.

The festival, held each mid-April in Fort McPherson, celebrates spring returning to the North and attracts participants from communities across the Delta. Last year marked the Jamboree’s 62nd anniversary.

The Jamboree’s 2020 events were moved entirely online amid the Covid-19 pandemic’s onset, including a popular virtual jigging contest that received more than 180 entries.

This year, however, organizers are pushing for at least a few of the festivities to be held in person.



“There really hasn’t been a lot of excitement happening in the last year because of all the restrictions in place,” said Sierra Daley, a member of the organizing committee.

“If we can figure out a way to do this, following the restrictions, we just think it would be really good for the community and the surrounding communities to be able to have something cool to look forward to.”

Other jamborees in the NWT haven’t had such luck.

Organizers of Yellowknife’s Long John Jamboree announced last Sunday that this year’s festival will not go ahead due to Covid-19 – the fourth successive year the event has either been disrupted or cancelled outright.



Inuvik’s Muskrat Jamboree was cancelled last year and organizers are still considering whether to cancel it again in 2021.

Daley said seeing other cancellations was “disappointing” but understandable in the circumstances.  

The Peel River Jamboree committee is drawing up an application to send to the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer for approval. Daley expects that to be submitted by the end of the week.

“We probably won’t have a jigging contest in person because that’s an indoor event with big crowds,” she said.

“But we did do an online talent show last year, so that’s probably something we would do either online or just locally at our radio station, where we can broadcast it over the radio.”

Though jigging might still be off the table, the committee has its sights set on hosting some outdoor events in person, such as skidoo racing and the rifle shoot.

“Thinking about the way the rifle shoot is run, –and there are not very many spectators – we don’t foresee having any problems running that with Covid restrictions,” Daley explained.

Daley said the committee hopes to have final confirmation from the chief public health officer in two weeks so it can begin nailing down details in earnest.



Radio bingos and daily raffles will continue to serve as the main sources of fundraising, she added.

When asked what the event means for Fort McPherson and the surrounding communities, Daley said: “The sun is out way longer, it’s nice weather.

“It’s just a good time for families that have moved and live across the Delta to come back and visit with each other, with their families, with friends from other communities.”