Jaywalkers brings community together
The streets were packed for Jaywalkers Jamboree in Camrose on Saturday. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian
It took a day to hit it's stride, but Jaywalkers Jamboree danced it's way through three full days of downtown rides, sales, and entertainment on the weekend.
The pouring rain put an early damper on the festivities on Friday, but Camrose Chamber of Commerce executive director Sharon Anderson said fairgoers more than made up for it on Saturday.
"Saturday was just an amazing day all the way around for the vendors, the businesses and for West Coast Amusements," she said.
The Jamboree made the switch to three days from its standard Friday and Saturday operation, and the early returns appear to be mostly positive with decent crowds up until 5 p.m. on the final day. The three-day fair is a three-year commitment for the Chamber as they hope to continue to grow the festival.
"If it's valuable for everybody we'll keep going," said Anderson. "It was requested by a lot of people but then some of our businesses don't like it because they're tired. We haven't had time to get feedback from the business community as a whole to see how it went."
The jamboree has now run for 61 years and originally started as a business driven venture to bring people downtown. Eventually the arts community got involved bringing in different entertainment for the festival and rides were also added. It has become one of the busiest weekends of the year for downtown businesses, with most stores offering deep discounts in store and through their sidewalk displays.
Sole City Shoes has been on 50 Street since 2006 and the impact on their business is huge.
"When you have 10,000 people come out to Jaywalkers, we'll have a store staffed with 19 people working from 8 in the morning to 10 at night," said store manager Chad Snow. "We'll see on average three to four times the traffic we would see on a normal busy Saturday."
The weekend also was the launch for a couple of annual community seasonal events. The Art Walk entered it's 23rd year the works of local artists displayed at nine different venues throughout the city. Friday marked the beginning of the season for the Mirror Lake Express train ride operated by the Chamber and a fleet of volunteers and Anderson said it was busy particularly on Saturday with the clear skies and 20 C weather.
She does note that they are still looking for volunteers to help run it throughout the summer on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and during major events like Canada Day.
"It doesn't have to be a permanent commitment," said Anderson. "If somebody wants to come help for a few nights here or there it's helpful."
The jamboree has become about so much more than businesses over the years. It has become a gathering place for the community and every year there are new people experiencing the fair for the first time. Such was the case for Brian Wiley of Hay Lakes, who was meeting up with his two kids on Saturday at the fair.
"All of their friends were here, they come every year," he said. "It's busy, lots of people. I didn't know what to expect, I have never been here before. I am enjoying it."
For others it was a matter of carrying on family tradition.
Sarah Nescoly, 21, of Camrose grew up coming to Jaywalkers, but this year there was something new, she was getting to watch her two-year-old niece experience it for the first time.
Nescoly is not so much into the rides at this point, but she comes to wander and see people she has not seen in a while.
"I usually end up coming down to at least walk through," she said. "I like coming down here and going 'Oh I know you,' and 'Oh I know you.' When you live here for a long time you end up seeing a bunch of people you know every time you come down."
Jaywalkers Jamboree turns into a community effort every year with a number of sponsors that come on board to fund the two stages and the pancake breakfasts, wide spread participation of Downtown Camrose businesses and the efforts of a number of volunteers.
One element that does continue to be a challenge, however, is a family themed activity on Saturday evening. This year's effort was a family dance by the Main Stage with a Mardis Gras theme. Despite ideal weather conditions it was sparsely attended, but it gives them something to work on to improve.
"I think it's still worth it to have music and to have something," said Anderson. "We keep trying different things to see what it is that people are going to be interested in and you don't know until you try it."