Much ado about Camrose’s vast cultural scene
Camrose's cultural scene is thriving with dance, music, and art, and as we roll into the summer there is still much to do in the Swan City.
I have been in Camrose for just five months, but already the community is so much more than I could have imagined.
Being a dyed in the wool sports guy for 13 years, I was well aware of the city’s excellent athletic reputation with the Kodiaks and University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings — the first big event I covered after graduation in 2002 was the Alberta Summer Games in Camrose later that year.
What I did not expect was the level of cultural events in the city.
I really do not know how long it has been at this level or if I am just lucky to be here during a golden age for the arts in Camrose.
Between the state-of-the-art Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre and, at the other end of the spectrum, the historic Bailey Theatre – maybe this province’s best kept secret – the city has a lot going on here.
And I mean a lot.
My previous two stops — Nanaimo and Red Deer — prided themselves on their cultural scene. But this little town easily holds its own with either of those cities of 100,000.
Nanaimo may have more live Indy music that was accessible every day, but they were not getting any bigger acts than what Camrose is attracting on a regular basis, and it’s hard to ignore the efforts of groups like the Bailey Buckaroos and the Rose City Roots. Red Deer may have more galleries in its downtown, but the Swan City is right there on a per capita basis with many local artistic opportunities through the Chuck MacLean Arts Centre.
I have feeling I haven’t even scratched the surface for what the city has to offer.
This weekend it is all getting turned up another notch with the 60th Annual Jaywalkers Jamboree which will highlight the local music scene like no other and the start of Camrose Art Walk which will give local artists a platform all summer long that they will not have otherwise.
On June 6, the Lougheed Centre will also be launching its upcoming season and they’ve already announced two shows — the Barenaked Ladies and the Shumka Dancers — that will trump anything the performing arts centre has previously hosted in size and prestige.
I haven’t even touched on the ultimate expression of Alberta culture that is the four-day marathon of country music and partying: Big Valley Jamboree on the August Long Weekend. The party this year should be the craziest yet as they celebrate 25 years as the biggest country music festival in Western Canada. I have been once before in 2004 and checked a major box off the bucket list in seeing Reba McEntrye. This year it is Keith Urban headlining and I can’t wait.
We are just emerging from a cultural year packed with performances of every description from dance and music festivals to plays to concerts to comedic spotlights and everything in between. All of these events play into a major entertainment economic driver for the city as people drive to Camrose, buy gas, eat at restaurants, stay in hotels and shop in stores.
The lifeblood of these organizations, of course are the legions of volunteers who put in many hours of free labour to ensure they go off without a hitch.
Ensuring Camrose is immersed in arts and culture is more than just a goal of a few, it is a community identity.
You may be tempted to head out to the lake this summer or go camping in the mountains. Do so, but do not stay away too long as you will undoubtedly miss something great.