Last weekend’s Blueberry Jam Music Gathering hammered home everything we love about Flin Flon’s arts scene. It was fun, it was flashy and it was so much better than even the most optimistic person could have anticipated.
This is the sort of thing people outside the north should know about Flin Flon. While we know about our arts community and we love it, as a whole, we don’t do nearly as good a job of bragging about it and our artists and musicians as we should.
We ought to make sure everybody knows about this. Spread the damn Jam.
Since we got our tourism brand last year, the execution has, at times, left something to be desired. The Jam has ties to that brand from the very beginning – it was unveiled at the Jam main stage before last year’s inaugural show even took place. Use that brand and that message to attract people here.
The issue is bringing people north, convincing them the trip is worth it. We don’t have an issue with having people who have already come here coming back. That’s never a problem. Our new reporter’s mother and grandmother drove from Gimli to Flin Flon for the Jam, and to hear him describe it, they’ve been blowing up his phone ever since they got home about how great the weekend was and how much they like Flin Flon.
Preaching to the choir might feel good, but you’re not exactly bringing anyone new in. It’s basic business – if you’ve got something you know is good but not enough people know about it, tell them. Shove it right in their faces. Be bold.
That said, while this year’s Jam was amazing, it wasn’t perfect. Here’s where things could be better for next year.
First, light up the walking paths. One line of backyard solar LED lights along one side of the hill by Rotary Park wasn’t enough. There were two people, both retirement age, who I saw roll their ankles walking the path between the main stage area and the Rotary Wheel at night.
Add a few more permanent washrooms. There’s only two sets of permanent washrooms at the main festival area – one at the Rotary Wheel and one on top of the hill near the stage. Can there be one built somewhere else, maybe along that path between the Rotary Wheel and main stage area? There’s already a bank of Porta-Potties there, so we know the area works for people to… er… dispose of things.
Carry more wristbands. It was a great idea to add these for this year’s event, because it helps provide an easy count for how many people come in. However, having so many people that you run out of bracelets for the first night a few hours into the party was a problem – a good problem to have, granted, but still a problem.
Having those things around helps keep the event free while still giving organizers an indication of how many people walk through.
Increase community involvement and volunteering. While the number of people who worked hard in organizing, coordinating and eventually keeping the Jam running was high, you can never have too many volunteers. I’m sure some community groups who weren’t explicitly involved would benefit from doing so.
Bring in a few new faces on stage. Having acts and artists from across Canada (and in one prominent case, the U.K.) was excellent. This is another one of those points like the last one – while the number is already great, having a little more wouldn’t hurt.
Add another stage at some point. It doesn’t have to be a new one. Having shows at, say, Pioneer Square or the R.H. Channing Auditorium would be another boon for the gathering. Hey, why not have some shows at Phantom Lake and motivate some people or groups to actually build something out there? (or at least trim some of the weeds?)
Granted, doing that spreads out the footprint of the event even more and might have the effect of bringing down attendance at other areas, but providing another place to play would allow organizers a fresh new set of slots for interested artists and allow tourists a chance to see a part of the community they may not otherwise get to check out.
Also, what about building a small set of bleachers or benches to the side of the stage. As someone who always forgets to bring a lawn chair (and I know there are many of us), this could have been good to have. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but surely would have been good for somebody. There are a lot of elderly people, retirees and the like, coming to the Jam. Having a place for seniors to sit wouldn’t be the worst idea.
I want to make one thing clear: I’m not just trying to lob trash talk from the cheap seats about this event. I went every day and I had a terrific time. I’m merely suggesting some things for the event board to look at for next year’s shows. If something’s done about these things? Great? If not? I’ll still want to go anyway.