“High and Dry in 2011” was the slogan for this year’s edition of the Craven Country Jamboree, in its seventh year since its resurrection in 2005.
Water and mud have been a continuing problem for organizers of the yearly event that began as the Big Valley Jamboree in 1983. Rubber boots and rain coats are always a main staple for the suitcase, but this year after water causing the most trouble ever, no one needed to pull out the rain gear.
When the water became more than could be handled, the campers were moved to higher ground, for the second time only in jamboree history.
After a heavier than normal spring run off and a deluge of spring rain, the festival site was left under a lake of water, that included a healthy fish population that spilled into the campground from Long Lake.
Craven organizers began work on the campground before the 2010 festival and continued through the fall to get on top of the soggy campground. The heavy snow, runoff and spring rain left them worse off than when they began.
After receiving $1.5 million in flood relief, work began on dykes with the hopes of pumping the water off of the festival site and back into the creek that flows through the site.
The main grandstand and main street area was dried out in plenty of time for the concerts but the campground still had work to be done. The dykes were built and the pumps were fired up, only to be shut down by the fisheries department. With time ticking, the organizers jumped ship and moved the campground to dry ground, north of the town of Lumsden.
Ticket sales suffered and online sites were flooded with nervous Craven fans who weren’t up for the new campground adventure. But although the numbers were down slightly, the newly formed campground was full of fans ready for a weekend of country music and partying with their friends.
Kim Blevins, Director of Marketing and Communications, talked about the campground, “The campground was received very well. We had expected some complaints but people were overwhelmingly positive. I think everyone knew what we had to do to even make the festival happen and they were very thankful to even be able to attend the festival. It also helped that the land was very high quality, grassy, dry and near to the highway.”
After the city of Minot was flooded, they were forced to cancel the Minot State Fair which includes a number of high profile country acts.
Blevins confirmed that the size of the crowd was down, “Our attendance numbers are hard to gauge with the day tickets sold, but I would estimate that we had about 18,000 each day. We usually sell 23,500 for a sell out.” In 2010, day tickets were not offered, as the event was a sell-out before the gates opened.
Although the numbers were down, Blevins is still pleased with the 2011 event. “We are proud that we had a very successful festival this year.”
After everything we went through with the flooding (twice), the dyke project, the issues with the Department of Oceans and Fisheries, power issues and on and on, we are extremely proud of everyone involved with the festival whose commitment and passion for the Craven Country Jamboree was evident in just how hard they worked. We are also proud of our fans for sticking with us through this turbulent year, for coming out and being so positive about all of the changes.” She added, “I don’t know that I’d change anything. We did the best with what we had and pulled off a great festival.”
Busses were provided to move the fans from the campsite, 9 kms away, to the festival site. Things moved smoothly throughout the weekend, but a major snag came on Saturday night when the grandstand area emptied. Some fans reported a two hour wait for a bus back to their camper. Sunday reports from security told of angry fans ready for bed. Besides the Saturday night log jam, traffic flowed freely between the sites. Most people reported a fun weekend, with a smaller crowd to contend with and the same great country music on stage.
Headliners for 2012 were announced just previous to Rascal Flatts closing the 2011 festival. In previous years, the Sunday night headliner was the only act announced, but for the first time, hosts, Williams and Ree announced three headliners! Blake Shelton will close Friday, Alan Jackson on Saturday and Brad Paisley will wrap up the 2012 festival on Sunday night.
Tickets went on sale at the jamboree site on Sunday, the last day of the event, with staff selling out the first set of tickets at $125 each. Tickets went on sale at the jamboree office and online the following week, with Blevins reporting brisk sales. “Ticket sales for next year are going very well. On track with previous years. As well, because of a change to our reserved camping process, we are renewing campsites at this time and we have had many people renew.” This year, for the first time, those who purchased reserved camping for the 2011 event are able to reserve those same sites for the 2012 event.
Blevins is looking forward to next year and having the campsite back at the festival site. “Our slogan for 2012 is ‘We’re Coming Home in 2012’. What this means is that our campground is returning to our original site. Besides the close to 5km of dykes that we built, and all the water that we pumped out, we are planning to use some of the fill from the dykes to repair low spots in the campground. We also plan to seed the entire campgrounds to ensure that we’ve got a beautiful camping area for next year.”
In the campground, the Gold area is within the dyked area and many thought they were dry along with the mainstage and main street areas. Many checked out the sites that they had reserved for this year and found their gold sites still quite wet. “In regards to the Gold area, there was standing water because all efforts to pump out the area were abandoned after the decision was made to move all camping. Had we completed pumping out the area, it would have been dry. Moving forward, with the dykes in place, we will have much less standing water if we get a lot of rain, as the creek will not flood onto our property. Therefore, it will be much easier to pump out and keep dry.”