Call it a comeback, call it what you will - the Blueberry Jam Music Gathering roared back to the Flinty Campground last week, bringing thousands of music fans with it.
The first event of its kind and scale since pre-pandemic times wrapped up in the evening August 7, exceeding organizers’ hopes and expectations in the process.
In total, just shy of 4,000 people visited the festival grounds over the weekend, a marked decrease from the festival’s height in 2019 but more visitors than last year and in the event’s first year in 2018.
Likely due to rain and cold weather, Friday saw a smaller group of visitors - between 600 and 700 adults, not including youth visitors, musicians and volunteers - but as the weekend wore on, more visitors came to the party.
“The big one was on Saturday - over 1,700 people showed up on Saturday,” said Crystal Kolt, volunteer coordinator and one of the festival organizers.
“That’s really good for a comeback.”
Colleen Arnold, Blueberry Jam board chair, feels the event was a success.
“Lots of good comments and praise for the entertainers. All of them did an excellent job. It was just a whole fantastic weekend,” she said.
The event had some hiccups, including last-minute schedule changes. At least one performer had to miss the show due to injury - others had to stay away after a possible COVID-19 exposure away from the event. With a small number of acts having to leave, schedules were put in a blender at the 11th hour, leaving a new slate that most fans would have not noticed changes in.
“There were hitches - there always are. You can’t control the weather, can’t control people getting hurt or illnesses of the musicians and performers. The community really pulled together and got it done,” said Arnold.
Kolt said that after two years of altered events due to COVID-19 - no Jam at all in 2020 and a one-day, abbreviated event last year - showing the community the Jam was still alive was paramount.
“Considering that we're rebuilding and the different conversations I've had with other people in the field and festivals that have been happening in the province, I think it was a huge success,” Kolt said.
“Saturday looked full capacity. These numbers are really important for us, because we know that if it doubles next year, we have to figure out how to make space.”
The Jam itself could see changes for next year, as organizers seek out new ways to hold the event and aim to iron out kinks.
“There's always room for improvement. We've spoken about things like children's entertainment or maybe specialty acts,” Kolt said.
“Once we take a breather and reevaluate - everybody, we're all just trying to put our feet up today - we will be regrouping and want to hear what everybody else heard and feels, in their specific areas.”
Arnold agreed, saying some tweaks or changes could come for future editions of Blueberry Jam, but exactly what they may be are not yet known.
“There's a few things that we're going to talk about for next year, changing little things here and there that didn't seem to work or improving how they worked. The main thing is we're going to try,” she said.
When asked what grades she would give the event, Arnold said she’d give an A+ for the audience and an A++ for the organization and volunteers.
“It all worked out, but we still could use a few more volunteers,” she said.
“We were still scrambling, getting some people the night before and a lot of people doing double shifts here, some people even more.”