Changes at St. Jean Baptiste well-received

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Bouncy castles not ideal, organizers say, but worked in a pinch

Morinville’s annual signature festival has come and gone with a whirlwind of activity, including a major last-minute change to the activities on offer.

Korien Sampson, the board chair for the Morinville Festival Society and main organizer of the three-day St. Jean Baptiste Festival, said initial reports from guests are that people were reasonably happy with the changes. Happy, or at least not too upset.

The first change guests immediately noticed was a large blue fence surrounding the festival site in the parking lot and field behind the Ray McDonald arena, and the admission at the gates.

“It takes a lot of money to put this on, obviously,” she said. “We had less than we normally get for sponsorship dollars. Due to that fact, we didn’t have a choice but to implement a $5 base fee.”

To make the funding issue much more difficult, organizers learned with very little warning that West Coast Amusements couldn’t attend with midway rides because of a booking error.

After a quick survey of youth and those connected with youth in the community, organizers booked a plethora of bouncy castles and related activities to give the kids something to do.

“It wasn’t what we wanted, but it was good in the sense that it gave the kids something to do, and it gave the kids something as a replacement for the midway,” Sampson said. “That was our goal to begin with.”

She said from what she saw, having been at the site for the entire festival, everyone seemed to be having fun.

As for whether the changes affected attendance, she said it was hard to say because they had never had gates to count admissions in the past – but from what she observed the crowds actually seemed bigger.

“I know our Sunday attendance was probably the highest our Sunday attendance ever was, so that’s a good thing,” she said. “I’m 100 per cent positive Logger Sports had a lot to do with that one.”

Karen Shaw, there with her three children under eight years old, said she wasn’t upset by the lack of a midway – it’s often a “rip-off” anyway.

“They charge you $5 for a five-minute ride,” she said. “My kids are just as happy with the bouncy castles, and they’re a lot more affordable.”

She said the gate fee didn’t dissuade her, especially considering one of her kids got in free anyway.

“I don’t mind the changes at all,” Shaw said.

Robin Deitrich, meanwhile, said she was of two minds about the changes. She also said she didn’t mind the gate fees, but said the midway rides were a bigger attraction for her older kids than the bouncy castles.

“They liked the climbing wall and the laser tag, but they’re just too big to really get much out of most of the bouncy castles,” she said.

Sampson noted the festival is an ever-evolving work in progress, and hopes festival-goers will complete a survey to help with planning for next year’s festival.

“We’re looking forward to improving things in the years to come and making sure this is an event that people will want to come back to every year,” she said.

A link to the survey is available at www.morinvillefestivals.com.

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Doug Neuman