The Moose Jaw Band & Choral Festival held its 72nd event from May 13 to 16, and it was historic for both positive and negative reasons — Organizers first registered a record 104 participating groups, but were then forced to cut that number to 42 because of the dispute between the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) and the ruling Sask Party government. 

The organizing committee realized that if STF imposed sanctions during the week of the festival, the financial impact could have been devastating. So, they made the decision to allow only groups from Alberta and Manitoba

Nevertheless, chair Janie Fries called the week’s activities a success. 

“It was sad for everyone involved, you know, for the directors, for the students who look forward to coming to Moose Jaw. It was very sad for us because we get so excited with all the numbers ... but we did make that decision not only to benefit the Festival, but also to benefit those school groups, because ... they would have lost a lot of money if there were sanctions. 

“Despite all those hurdles we had to jump, it went really, really well. We were very happy with the sessions, Moosic in the Park, the weather was good, we had a great audience. It was a good week for us.” 

Moosic in the Park for the 2024 Moose Jaw Band and Choral FestivalStudents perform in the Crescent Park amphitheatre (Moosic in the Park) for the 2024 Moose Jaw Band and Choral Festival (photo by Gordon Edgar)

Fries said that part of what makes the Moose Jaw Band & Choral Festival successful each year (and for more than 70 years now), is Moose Jaw itself. 

“We had a large contingent from Manitoba, we always do, and they always respond, saying, ‘We’re coming back, we absolutely love it here.’ 

“We get a few groups from Alberta, as well, and same thing. They tend to come back year after year, and I always say the success of this Festival is not just because of the Festival — a big chunk of it is what Moose Jaw has to offer.” 

Examples of visiting musical groups enjoying the city included one band who picked up scavenger hunt sheets from Tourism Moose Jaw and explored the downtown. Another director took his group to Little Chicago Entertainment for a boardgame night that everyone had fun at. 

“Moose Jaw has so many things to offer, and the fact that it’s all very walkable (is great),” Fries said. “The restaurants are downtown, the Festival venues are downtown, they don’t spend a lot of wasted time on the bus, they just come to Moose Jaw and enjoy and experience the city.” 

The 73rd Festival is already scheduled and will take place from May 12 to 15 in 2025. 

Fries did not that she and her committee are “desperate” for more volunteers. The Festival is entirely run by volunteers, and there were moments this year that saw as few as three people trying to move and set up the performance equipment. 

“As much as it’s a very successful Festival on the other end, with the directors and the bands coming, we can’t sustain the back end unless we get more help.” 

A choir performs at Zion United Church during the 2024 Moose Jaw Band and Choral FestivalA choir performs at Zion United Church during the 2024 Moose Jaw Band and Choral Festival (photo by Gordon Edgar)