Bringing back the Rotary Wheel, taking out the dancefloor, changing up floorplans, revamping sound quality - this year’s Blueberry Jam Music Gathering will see some big changes from previous years, say some organizers.
This year’s edition of the Jam is in the works and will be held from August 11-13, organized by a group of local arts and culture figures similar to the first several editions. This summer will be the fifth edition of the event and the second full-blown, weekend-long Jam since the pandemic caused the cancellation of 2020’s event and the shortening of the 2021 show from a weekend-long to just one night.
“It’s similar to last year, except we’ve got a couple of fun things happening that are a bit different,” said Thomas Duncan, the City of Flin Flon’s public relations and community engagement manager - Duncan is in charge of marketing for the Jam this year.
Committee site manager Ted Elliott said the festival’s second stage this year would not be a temporary one in front of the Flin Flon Station Museum, like last year - instead, the Rotary Wheel will be used, similar to previous Blueberry Jam events, with some slight changes.
“We're going to be utilizing the Rotary Wheel. We won't have the stage in front of the museum this year. The Rotary Wheel is going to be decorated as a cabaret,” Elliott said.
The Wheel will be used mainly for acoustic acts, Elliott said, and will be a more intimate venue than the larger main stage.
Speaking of the main stage, that area will also see changes. The wooden dancefloor pad used for all previous iterations of the Jam will be removed. Elliott said that while the floor was in use for some portions of the event, including sets taking place at night, taking the dancefloor out would allow people to get closer to the stage.
“The main reason was some of the performers hated it,” Duncan said.
“They’re too far away - there aren’t many people who are dancing there [at times]. A lot of people will get up and stand and different places, but that was one of the biggest things.”
“That will increase the capacity for people to join us,” Elliott said.
The dancefloor being gone will allow people to get right up to the stage in a way they have not in years past.
“There’s going to be three hours a day where people are going to miss it - but the thing is if people are wanting to dance, they’re going to dance, they’ll dance in the grass, they’ll dance on the road. There’s a continual evolution - we’ll try anything," said Elliott.
“It was never intended to be a permanent installation. We knew it was going to have to be replaced eventually - it’s been down for four years and it’s served its purpose for as much time as we expected it to, so if we’re going to keep it, we’d have to do maintenance on it anyway.”
Another change will come in the sound for the shows - a professional sound crew will come north on the recommendation of famed Flin Flon-born singer Jennifer Hanson, who will perform at the Jam and has advised organizers on some changes.
“She’s very confident that not only the audience will appreciate an improvement in sound quality, but the musicians themselves are going to recognize it’ll sound better - their experience is going to be better too,” Elliott said.
Other changes will be coming for the general floorplan of the event, with vendors being put on both sides of the main road north of the stage, instead of just on the west side as in years past - one side will be set aside for food vendors, while the other will be held for local artisans and merchandise.
“One of the things we're looking at adding this year is, opposite where the food vendors were last year, we want to have an artisan row, so you're actually going to have an alleyway between the food vendors and the artisans. It’ll be a little bit of a farmers market-type atmosphere,” Elliott said.
That change may cut into the size set aside for the Jam’s beer gardens - Elliott said that change would be offset by extending the beer garden back further than in the past so that it stays around the same size in square footage, but has a longer and skinnier shape. That change has not yet been finalized - organizers are still in talks to sort out finer details.
Other ideas include bringing in a trailer for artists to use as a changing room or green room-type space, which has not been done in past editions of the Jam, or setting aside more space to be used as a production office area.
“We're trying to improve the experiences for both the performers and for the audiences,” Duncan said.
“What that's going to entail, what that's going to be, we're unsure, but it's an important piece for us. All of the performers are playing for free and it's important that we give them the best experience that they can have, to give them the tools that they need to put on good shows.”
Other changes include making the Jam a pet-free event, asking attendees to leave any furry friends at home, along with people not riding bicycles through the event space to save room and possible collision risk for attendees on foot. Parking will be similar to the past, with organizers asking for people to park mainly in the former Extra Foods parking lot to the south of the venue space to save room for nearby businesses - golf carts will be in use for people unable to walk from the parking lot to the festival stage space, with talks in the works to possibly bring in a shuttle at times.
Organizing committee members plan to chase down grants and fundraisers to help keep the event going - the Jam will stay a free event, but bracelets will be used as in years past to help keep tabs on the number of people coming or going.
The Jam features mostly local performers playing sets throughout the weekend. Attendance is free and people are encouraged to bring chairs, lay down blankets in the grass or make themselves comfortable.