Even though times are tough financially, fans of country music are turning out in droves for the annual Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alta.
Thomas Kenneth came to his first festival last year and thoroughly enjoyed himself. But this year, things have been a little challenging economically for the power line technician.
“I had steady work for the last couple years but after the whole economy crashed, I was out of work for about seven months,” he said.
That forced Kenneth to think twice about where he was spending his savings, and he cut back.
“It’s really hard because you got used to having that kind of salary, that much spending money – you don’t have to worry about paying for stuff, insufficient funds and whatnot. But once the crash happened, everything got pucker-factor tight,” he explained. “You’ve got to really watch the money.”
One thing that was never on the chopping block? Big Valley Jamboree tickets.
Mike Anderson, the general manager of Panhandle Productions, was hopeful that would be the case.
“We knew we were coming into a tough year. So when we started planning the lineup for this year, we wanted to make sure we give our customers the best possible experience.”
Anderson said the festival sold out a few days ago – something that didn’t happen last year.
Long-time BVJ attendee Trinity Chopyk thinks that’s all because of the quality of the acts.
“I could go and see Carrie Underwood – who have seen, and I paid $75 for a ticket,” she said. “Now I get to see her, Sam Hunt, Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton, Chad Brownlee and all those people for the $205 that they charge me for a weekend pass.”
She said the festival is an escape.
“In order to enjoy it and if you’re not doing that, I might as well just stay in my basement and hide out. I don’t want to do that.”
Chopyk said she came with a budget in mind to stretch her money.
“When you split camping between six people and we split all of our groceries I’m probably looking at about – with the ticket – around $600 for the weekend. That’s not too bad.”
A lot of that money is spent in Camrose. A previous economic study measured the contribution to be between $5 million and $6 million each summer.
“For the merchants of the city, they benefit big time,” Camrose Mayor Norman Mayer said. “From hotel rooms not being available, to restaurants and gas stations and fast food outlets all getting a share of what’s going on.”
Big Valley Jamboree runs through Sunday evening.