Festival Days are here again … for the first time

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Former SJB Fest is this weekend

Morinville’s biggest summer festival is back this weekend with a new name, a new date, and a whole lot of rides.

The first annual Morinville Festival Days runs this June 16 to 18 at the festival grounds next to the Ray McDonald Arena.

The Morinville Festival Society moved and renamed what used to be the St. Jean Baptiste Day festival to this date because the midway wasn’t available on the St. Jean Baptiste Day weekend anymore, said society president Korien Sampson.

“It seems to be what a lot of people want to see,” she said of the carnival rides, noting that attendance at last year’s event (which didn’t have a midway) dropped to 3,000 from the usual 5,000. She said she hoped the midway’s return would get those numbers back up.

The midway opens Friday at 3 p.m. along with an outdoor farmers’ market at the Rendez-Vous Centre.

The festival ramps up Saturday morning with a pancake breakfast in front of town hall at 7:30 a.m. and the raising of the Treaty 6 flag at 9:30. The festival parade rolls out along 100 Ave. starting at 10.

The annual Home Hardware/Bumper to Bumper car show also starts Saturday morning. This year, the show-and-shine will be in front of Home Hardware and Smith Music instead of its usual spot to avoid traffic jams with the parade, said organizer Karen Cust.

“We take all kinds of vehicles,” she said, including boats, go-carts, tractors, souped-up semis, motorcycles and full-on race-cars.

This year’s show will feature Little Obie, a six-foot tall wheel-based scale model of a train built by CN Rail to promote rail safety, Cust said. Obie will roll down 100 Ave. during the parade and will be available for kids to climb on at the car show. (There’s not enough space for rides, she said.) Some 150 other vehicles will likely be there as well.

Visitors will also get to cast votes for their favourite cars, with the winners getting prizes. Proceeds from the car show’s entry fees will go to the Jessica Martel Foundation.

Festival grounds fun

Starting Saturday, you’ll need to pay $5 for a wristband to get at any activities on the festival grounds (which includes the midway). Bands are available at the gate or in advance at the Community Cultural Centre, Morinville Sports and Hunters Print & Copy.

Visitors will get to check out free concerts and karate demos on the indoor and outdoor stages, drink beer, and take part in a Canada 150th-themed scavenger hunt. By seeking out facts about Canada’s history scattered throughout the grounds, visitors will get to fill in a passport they can enter to win $50, Sampson said.

While the society couldn’t get the sponsors needed for a full-on logger sports tournament like last year, they are holding a smaller family lumberjack event where kids will get to try log-rolling, axe-tossing and nail-pounding, Sampson said.

Be sure to be on the grounds at 1 p.m. Saturday to check out the annual Morinville Combat Firefighters Challenge, which this year features competitors from across Alberta.

Firefighters will have to sprint up a four-storey tower carrying a heavy hose then haul a second hose up to its top, said organizer and Morinville volunteer firefighter Shane Tellier. They then have to run back down, smash a heavy metal beam with a sledgehammer until it moves a certain distance, run a serpentine while dragging 50 feet of hose, blast several targets with water from that hose, and then haul a 185-pound dummy 50 feet.

“Some of the elite guys can do it in just over two minutes,” Tellier said of this Herculean task.

“It’s actually really insane what some of these guys are capable of.”

Sunday will see runners set off from the festival grounds for the fifth annual Jessica Martel Memorial Run, which aims to raise money to build a women’s shelter in Sturgeon County.

Visit morinvillefestivals.com for details.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.