Nicole (left) and Julia Hamp from the Burns Lake-based family band The Hamsters perform during the 21st Where The Rivers Meet Country Bluegrass Jamboree on April 26, 2018, at the Quesnel and District Seniors’ Centre. The family is returning to play the festival again this year. Lindsay Chung photo

Country and bluegrass festival returns to Quesnel next week

Seventeen bands will perform in the 22nd annual festival, from April 25-28

The 22nd Annual Where Rivers Meet Country Bluegrass Jamboree will kick off the Quesnel festival season next week.

The annual festival will feature 17 bands from around the province, as well as performances by local kids, as part of the festival’s bursary program.

“I really enjoy the music and camaraderie and people you meet there and make some friends that you’ve had for years there,” says Ken Knoke, a past president of the jamboree executive. “It’s really special.”

But more than just bringing country and bluegrass bands together from across the province, the jamboree raises money to provide 15 kids, between the ages of eight and 18, with a $300 bursary to study music or attend a music camp in the summer.

The past winners have a chance to perform a 15-minute set on stage at the festival on Saturday afternoon, at 12:45. Later in the day, the jamboree executive hosts an instrument draw for children in the same age group.

Knoke is also excited about some of the bands returning (and coming to the festival for the first time) this year. Two of those are The Hamsters, from Burns Lake and Young Country from Fort St. James — both of which feature young musicians who impressed the crowd last year. Knoke says he’s also looking forward to seeing the Good News Band, a gospel country band from Vanderhoof, perform in the festival for the first time.

There are also several local bands in the festival, including Cariboo Thunder, Ellaine and Friends, Its About Time, Milltown Philosophers, Old Time Fiddlers, and Windy Reeds.

READ MORE: Quesnel’s Paisley Players return with new, two-play show

Other bands performing in the jamboree come from Prince George, Fort St. John, Vanderhoof, Burns Lake, Terrace and Vernon.

“Sometimes, on Saturday it’s so busy we’ve got two or three rows of chairs infringing on the dance floor, and people are dancing up the aisles,” Knoke laughs. “It’s pretty busy.”

The whole event takes about 20 volunteers, says Knoke, but a key group of six to eight people get started early, canvassing businesses for donations and door prizes, and organizing with the bands.

The event starts on Thursday, April 25 when the doors open at 11:15 a.m., but opening ceremonies don’t kick off until 12:15. The only open mic of the festival happens Thursday at 6 p.m., and it is open to any musicians in the community — preferably, says Knoke, those who aren’t already featured in the festival.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday (April 26-28) kick off with a pancake breakfast at 7:30 a.m., and lunch and dinner will be available to all the festival goers through Jean’s Catering.

Another well-loved event in the festival is the Bandscramble.

Ellaine Botterill, who plays in the festival with her band Ellaine and Friends and has been volunteering with the jamboree for 15 years, helps organize the Bandscramble. Any musicians or performers (playing at the festival or audience members) can sign up and have their name put in a hat. Names are drawn out until everyone is in groups of four or five people, and then they prepare a skit or song to perform for the audience.

“Some of them get dressed up, and it’s lots of fun,” says Botterill.

Knoke adds: “And we’ve got a couple of local band members here that usually have the place in an uproar, just some of the shenanigans that they do.”

The Bandscramble takes place at 9 p.m. on Friday.

Anyone from out of town looking to get advance tickets or set up a night (or several) camping can contact Ken Knoke at 250-992-5696 or KennethLK@shaw.ca.


Heather Norman
Community Reporter
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