Plans underway for next Blueberry Jam

With a new stage, new swag, new transport and a new place to jam out, there are big plans in the works for the next Blueberry Jam Music Gathering.

The first committee meetings of 2019 for the next jam were held last week, with discussions of the plans being pursued now taking place.

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Event chair Edgar Wright said the board is looking at three big additions for the next gathering this summer. The first is having a “tweener stage,” a small side stage near the existing main stage, where smaller acts can perform between sets while larger bands get set up.

“There would be continuous music in that fashion. People wouldn’t be sitting around waiting for something to happen and it would cover any unexpected things,” said Wright.

The second improvement is adding what Wright described as a “picking and jamming tent” where musicians and festival-goers can go for a good old-fashioned jam session.

“It would allow people to show up and do their thing without any programming and anybody who’s around with an instrument can come in and join them,” he said.

Improvement number three is a practical one: redoing transportation around the site, allowing people with mobility issues access to both the main stage and tweener stage area and the nearby Rotary Wheel, which will host sets once again this summer.

“We recognized that some people needed assistance moving around and we’d like to make their lives easier and want them to know there’s more than one stage they can get to,” said Wright.

“Those are things that we have to raise money for in addition to the essentials.”

Meanwhile, committee members are also taking suggestions for how organizers can better track attendance for next year. No exact numbers exist for attendance for last year’s events, while estimates put the number of attendees as high as 1,500 at the event’s peak.

Having an exact visitor number will help organizers hunt for donations and contributions from businesses.

“There are some great ideas on how to number the people who are coming in to get a handle on attendance. That is really, really important for all of our data collection,” said marketing chair Crystal Kolt.

However, funding needs to be established before any of the improvements can take place. Estimates for how much the next event could cost range from $15,000 to as high as $40,000. All organizers have agreed that the event should stay free, but other ways to take in funds are on the table.

“We have to raise money for the essentials before we get into the expansion. We have to look after the porta-potties, the sound equipment, the techs,” said Wright.

“The intent is to keep this thing free. We don’t want to charge admission. We want people to show up and donate what they can to keep this thing going, but right now, our main goal is to fundraise just to get the thing off the ground without spending a lot of things out of confirmed capital. Nothing is confirmed until we’ve got the money.”

Kolt said the board has some ideas on how to both spread the word and make extra cash during the event.

“We have a variety of strategies that we’re going to be presenting to the Blueberry Jam board – how we can advertise the event and the kind of merchandise we can provide on the site, the various avenues we can advertise with, a variety of sponsors who we’re looking at who can support us,” she said.

Those ideas include t-shirt sales, water bottles and other merchandise, including an increase in advertising for the event across the province. Kolt said organizers have worked with Travel Manitoba and an ad for the event, paid for by the City of Flin Flon, would be included in a provincial tourism guide.

The organizing group even came up with an event-specific hashtag for the next Blueberry Jam. #FFBBJam will be the official social media slug.

Kolt said the board had learned lessons from last year’s event. While most considered the jam a success, suggestions for improvements have come in for next year.

“You always learn things from the first time you do it. The group was so fortunate to have such a successful event. We know, because of how successful last year was, what an economic positive it can be for the community as a whole. That was information that we gleaned from last year,” she said.

Wright also added the group would like to start a rainy-day fund – not a contingency fund in case the festival is hit by bad weather, but a way to raise funds for the festival in the long-term.

“It’ll be something we can draw on,” he said.

“We have a lot of really good people working on this and I’m quite confident that we’ll make it happen, just because of the nature of the people.”

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