SJB Festival taking the axe to annual fireworks show

There’s A Poll Below

by Stephen Dafoe

Those looking up to the sound of cracks and bangs during this year’s St. Jean Baptiste Festival may be surprised to see they are the sounds of wood chipping and not the sound of fireworks exploding over head. The SJB Festival Committee recently voted in favour of shifting the $5000 usually allotted for a fireworks display to part of the prize package for an international lumberjack competition the group believes will draw spectators out to the normally soft Sunday time slots.

Festival Chair Paul Smith said the new entry is a professional lumberjack competition that will take place on Father’s Day and is expected to attract people from throughout North America to compete for a $6500 prize purse.
“We want people to come out because we’re awesome and we’ve done lots of work,” Smith said of the efforts his committee has put in to add the new event to this year’s mix.

Smith said the decision to shift funding from the annual fireworks display to the lumberjack event was made in part because the Canada Day celebrations now include fireworks a week later.

“The committee decided to have an event on the Sunday that is an international event rather than spend it on fireworks,” Smith said, adding they are hoping to have 10 lumberjacks come to compete.

If this year’s lumberjack event is a success, there is a chance to have the event covered by television in subsequent years. “We are a member of Can-Log [Canadian Logger Sports Association]. That means within a year or two it will be televised. Because of the building of it, and we believe the community will love the event, bringing that kind of television exposure to Morinville — we see that as a positive thing.”

Despite the change in direction, Smith said attendees to this year’s event can expect the same festival they have experienced in other years.

“It’s an awesome festival,” he said. “We have many of the same staples that people have come to love like the Re/Max Parade, and the Rotary Rock and Ride Midway, Firefighter Combat Challenge, the Home Hardware / Bumper to Bumper Show and Shine, and the Saturday night concert. There will be some new things like the Servus Credit Union Beach Volleyball.”

This year’s Saturday night concert will trade the big name 1980s entertainers of past festivals for a more home-grown concept. Smith said the Poyester Coyotes, made up of Ed Bulger, Christan Maslyk, David LeBel and himself, will headline the Saturday night show with a 1970s themed performance, designed to coincide with the Georges P. Vanier reunion taking place in town during festival weekend.

“We’re doing ‘70s music because its a ‘70s reunion, and it will be a fun time of ‘70s music and a lot of polyester clothes and stage lights,” Smith said. “There’ll be a dance floor with lights under it people can try out just like in the movie Saturday Night Fever.”

The Saturday night concert is open to the public even though it is tied into the Vanier Reunion. Festival co-chair David LeBel said more than 175 tickets to the show have already been sold. “It’s already jammed packed, so you are advised to get your tickets as soon as they come out,” LeBel said.

The annual St. Jean Baptiste Festival takes place June 19 to 21. This year’s Re/Max Parade takes place on the Saturday morning and will resume the former 100 Street and 100 Avenue parade route. For more info on this year’s festival visit MorinvilleFestivals.com.

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  1. I view SJB festival as a festival about and for the town. It’s to celebrate our heritage in Morinville. Sure we have midway rides, a parade and some other events that may not be about the heritage but they are sponsored by local companies and its to help bring the town out to celebrate as a community. I don’t see how a lumber jack compition that will bring in outside people is helping to celebrate what Morinville is. I have nothing against it, would love to see it maybe on the Canada day weekend but don’t feel it fits in with SJB festival vibe.

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