By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Record turnouts to this year’s St. Jean Baptiste Festival, combined with the praise heaped upon organizers by the Town, businesses and residents, indicate that the event was a resounding success. But organizers of next year’s festival are suggesting that perhaps Morinville hasn’t seen anything yet.
St. Jean Baptiste Festival 2011 Chair Ron Cust said he was excited with the number of people that have stepped forward to help with next year’s event, and that the committee is planning to bring a bigger and even better festival to town for Morinville’s 100th anniversary.
“Our primary agenda from last year has been settled down in total and confirmed for next year already,” Cust said, noting the parade, firefighter’s combat challenge, memorial softball tournament, fireworks and midway are all confirmed to return in 2011.
Cust said another returning feature to the festival is the Show and Shine, but because of the popularity of the event, the amount of space devoted to classic cars and other vehicles is being expanded.
“There’s going to be an increased area within the old town community,” Cust said. “We had close to 100 vehicles last year and there is a possibility there could be close to 200 vehicles show [up] in 2011.”
Cust attributes the popularity of the show and shine event to the sense of nostalgia many people have when they see classic cars.
“It brings back a positive feeling from their youth,” Cust said. “Those of us that own vehicles like that, who take car of them and do the extra things that it takes to keep them running are happy when people see it and enjoy it because it brings a good memory back to them. So it’s worth the extra time we put into keeping them running.”
But Cust believes that nostalgic feeling transcends the car show itself and blends with the rest of the festival.
“When you have the people looking and laughing and thinking about good things in the old days, then the festival and the fair and the ball games from years gone by all flows back,” Cust said. “So now all of a sudden you are standing looking at a car, you’re at the fair grounds or you’re listening to music on stage or you’re looking at the antique tractors – now you’re feeling a good feeling. It’s like smelling the cotton candy and that brings back a memory.”
Cust said it was precisely that type of feeling that 2010 Festival Chair Joel Chevalier and he envisioned when they decided to take the annual festival to a new level last year.
But the expanded show and shine is not the only event to rekindle that sense of nostalgia nor the only venue where festival goers can see cars. If Cust and his committee have their way, the festival will include a car rally on 100 Avenue on the Sunday. The festival chair explained if insurance and legalities can be arranged the event could include some short track drag racing and a burn-out competition.
While the addition of the car rally is still in the works, another addition to the festival has been confirmed. The festival has partnered with the Sturgeon Ag Society to include the Annual Tearin’ Up the Turf bull riding event during the festival weekend, moving the popular bull ride from August to June.
“We’re excited about that partnership and we’ll be able to provide some volunteer help to them, and they’re going to bring another bigger aspect to our festival in June,” Cust said, adding the festival committee is contemplating organizing buses from Morinville to the Agriplex in Cardiff.
Although many new events are planned for the expanded 2011 festival, the committee is also looking to expand geographically into Morinville’s latest venue. Plans are already underway to include the new Community and Cultural Centre in the festival. Cust said the committee is negotiating with a major headliner, but he would not reveal who the entertainer or entertainers were.
Additional elements of the expanded weekend include an interdenominational gospel group to play on Sunday after the Fidelity Day ceremony, including some Aboriginal Days events in the festival and offering a bigger version of the Taste of Morinville event.
“Our hope is that every caterer or restaurant in Morinville will have a booth of their own where they will showcase their signature meal,” Cust said. “We intend to have that in the park area.”
St. Jean Baptiste Festival 2011 runs June 24 – 26, and Cust said the committee anticipates a full slate of events for all three days.