Moose Jaw residents may have seen an influx of charter buses and students throughout the city over the last four days.
Well...that’s because the 71st annual Band and Choral Festival took centre stage at various locations around the city.
Almost 100 groups from all across Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba took part in jazz and concert bands and performed choral presentations.
Janie Fries is the chair of the festival and says that the event couldn’t have been better.
“All the directors and the kids were so happy to be here in Moose Jaw,” says Fries. On Tuesday night, we had 750 kids in Crescent Park dancing to the music of the Bromantics for two hours and they danced right through and had such a good time.”
A new addition this year was virtual performances via Zoom for two groups from Peace River, Atla., who couldn’t make it due to the forest fires in northern Alberta.
“That was the first time we ever have done that, it was incredible,” adds Fries.
The Mae Wilson Theatre, Peacock Centennial Auditorium, St. Andrew Church, and St. Aidan housed the band features of the festival, while Zion United Church was used for the choral presentations.
Fries says that for most of these kids, this was the first band festival they had ever attended, making it even more special.
“I don’t know who was more excited about doing it, their students or their teachers. Everyone was so excited to drive down Main Street and see that Moose Jaw Band Choral Festival sign on Main Street. One teacher said that her whole bus said that’s for us. They were willing to do anything to make this happen. It was very successful and well received.”
For the first time in the festival's history, a survey was presented to the students and teachers to see what attractions they visited or liked the most.
“Of course, we expected they were going to do the Tunnels [Of Moose Jaw], which they do. We had a lot of people going to the [Kinsmen] Sportsplex and we had an awful lot of groups going to the Western Development Museum. They got to see quite a bit and took advantage of all of these facilities that we have.”
Forest fire smoke, unfortunately, cancelled Wednesday’s Moosic in the Park concert at the Crescent Park Amphitheatre, which was a stage for students to put on a performance.
Fries says the smoke didn’t stop one group from putting on the show by just moving it to another location.
“They called up the Yara Centre and she said they were awesome, and the staff treated them so well. At the last minute, they were invited to come in for an activity.”
She wanted to say thank you to Moose Jaw’s facilities for helping to make this year’s festival a memorable one for the students and teachers.
This year’s event was not only a memorable one for the groups involved, but it was also special for the whole organizing committee with it being three years since their last festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is a certain feeling of responsibility when you have an event that has been going on since 1950 and you don’t want that event to collapse under your watch. We all have an invested interest in young people doing these things. We have seen firsthand the effect the festival has on these students. There is a certain amount of pride when we are able to pull it off and pull it off well.”
Looking to next year’s festival, Fries say that they will be looking for more volunteers to assist in the event, as that was the biggest challenge this year.
In addition, they will be looking to continue their Moosic in the Park feature at the Crescent Park Amphitheatre.
More information on the festival and how you could help put up with next year’s event can be found on the Moose Jaw Band and Choral Festival website.