When nearly 25,000 people head to the festival grounds of the Big Valley Jamboree (BVJ), it more than doubles the population of the City of Camrose.
Being able to host that many people takes a lot of work and resources so organizers have created their own city within a city to ensure they aren’t pulling from their host community.
“We are putting together the infrastructure of an entire city so it takes us 360 days to put this together,” said festival producer Mike Anderson, about the planning that goes into BVJ.
Two weeks before the festival starts, the infrastructure starts going up on the Camrose Regional Exhibition site.
“What we try to do is make sure we have all of the resources so we are our own sustaining community out here,” Anderson said.
“If something were ever to happen in Camrose, they could deal with the issues there and we can handle 99 per cent of things internally here.”
The Big Valley Jamboree has its own electrical grid to power the events. The festival also has its own sanitation and water crews, along with teams to deal with waste and recycling.
“After year five, people thought this is a small city so we need to treat it like that,” Anderson said.
Emergency services are also on site. The festival has its own police department and fire department, with six firefighters on site at all times.
“We have had some instances in the past that required a quick response and we were on site and it helps,” said Randy Haugen, a fire inspector and investigator with the Camrose Fire Department.
Haugen said because there is large number of RVs and trailers on site that use propane, time is of the essence when it comes to protecting people and property at the festival.
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“Through heavy traffic, it could take up to seven to 10 minutes just to get out of Camrose at peak times,” Haugen said.
“This way, we’re on site and can be there in anywhere from two to three minutes.”
The festival also has three medical centres, including the main one that organizers call a hospital which is open 24 hours a day. A doctor and dentist are on site, along with nurses, advanced care paramedics and other volunteers with medical training.
“We see about 300 (patients), most of which are minor injuries,” said Roger Plouffe, the First Aid logistics officers.
“Because there’s 25,000 people here, we statistically get almost anything.”
They are prepared for almost anything as well.
The hospital is separated into several areas, including one to treat trauma like wounds that need stitches or cardiovascular emergencies. Another area is set up for those with medical conditions. The busiest of all is the minor injuries area to treat scrapes and bumps. There is also psychological help available if needed.
Crews also have the ability to take their medical care to those in the different concert bowls and other areas. If cases are more complex, a plan is in place with Alberta Health Services to provide ambulatory care.
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BVJ also has its own mayor. The honorary title was given to Alex Michaud by a group of his friends more than a decade ago. Organizers at BVJ caught on and it has stuck since.
Michaud has been involved with BVJ since before it became the Big Valley Jamboree and he keeps coming back year after year.
“It’s a first-class event,” Michud said. “I think it’s the people. The people I work with, the friendship we get out of it, the entertainment, the party.”
He hosts dozens of people every year in his campsite called “Michaudville.” One year, more than 200 visitors stopped by during the festival. He and his wife also help to feed the production crew, which has gained him a few perks, including backstage meet-and-greets with some big names, which he shares with his citizens.
“It gives me the opportunity to bring new people there and give them a life experience,” he said.
The mayor doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon.
“I told my son he should take it over and he said he wanted no part of it,” Michaud said. “My brother asked when I’m going to hang it up and I said, ‘I don’t know.’ I’m still having fun. What difference does it make?”
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