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Music lineup announced for Quesnel jamboree

Country, bluegrass and more will rock the QSC stage
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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 at the Quesnel & District Seniors’ Centre. They are back again for the 2023 event. (Lindsay Chung photo)

The grass is about to spring forth from the ground, and some of it will be blue.

Bluegrass goes with country living and country music, and why not throw in a little old-time rock ‘n’ roll and Texas swing just for the fun of it. After three years of COVID sitting, it’s time to dance again at the annual (pandemics don’t count) Where The Rivers Meet Country Bluegrass Jamboree in Quesnel.

Eleven bands have been scheduled so far. Some are new to the festival and others are regular favourites. The list includes The Moosehorn Mountain Boys, Cariboo Thunder, Over The Hill Gang, Windy Reeds, The Good News Band, Dave Forsberg, Waywards, B-Side, The Hampsters, Ellaine & Friends, and the Quesnel Old-Time Fiddlers.

Some of these acts are from Quesnel, some from the Cariboo, and others from farther away who just want to enjoy what this city’s jamboree and community have to offer.

“For bands, it’s a chance to get mobile again,” said longtime festival coordinator Ken Knoke. Not all groups have been able to re-form after the pandemic years, and some have to work their main careers to catch up on post-pandemic life, but there were plenty of groups who had the hunger and the ability to sign up for Quesnel’s event, and more who expressed the desire for future appearances.

It’s more than just a festival with a rigid menu of acts. There is a popular band scramble as well, where musicians’ names go into a hat, and groups are assembled by random draw, given a chance to rehearse a little bit, then entertain the crowd in a most spontaneous way. It shakes up any sense of routine, and it showcases the stellar musicians they all are to be able to instantly collaborate.

Another feature is the open mic they offer twice during the festival weekend. Some great musicians who come to watch then have a chance to get up and have some fun as well, and new musicians can take a moment to perform a little and gain that on-stage experience for the future.

“I’d just moved back to Quesnel, I had been away, and open mic was how I got started,” said Ellaine Botterill, one of the acts on the marquee and a co-organizer of the event. That was in about 2004, and she’s become a Quesnel regular since then.

The same sound technician will be running the open mic as runs the audio board for the headliners, so it’ll be consistently sweet sounds from beginning to end. Botterill and Knoke were thrilled that festival veteran Dave Rubadeau from Prince George was coming back to twiddle the knobs.

Also back is the philanthropy for music that the festival fosters.

“We are able to offer 15 bursaries of $300 each for kids aged 8-18 for their music development,” Knoke said. “They can put that towards voice lessons, instrument lessons, fiddle camp, whatever gets them deeper into their music.”

“And there is a musical instrument giveaway each year,” said Botterill.

The whole festival is held at the Quesnel Seniors’ Centre, which has some RV parking available, if needed, and the music is always accompanied by food. There are evening meals, pancake breakfasts, and plenty of snacking always available.

Botterill and Knoke look back to 1998 when volunteers like RJ Proulx and Mae and Bob Campbell originated the Where The Rivers Meet Country Bluegrass Jamboree. COVID caused some confusion, but their original dream is still alive, thanks to today’s volunteers like key organizers and helpers like Elodianne Browning, Ken Taylor, Margie Knoke, Colleen Combs, Bob Michek, and many others who are behind the scenes, stepped down, or passed on since the founding. Their combined efforts flower April 27-30.

Tickets are available at Circle S Western Wear at 250-992-2811. Advance tickets are $30 until April 26, then $35 at the door. For out-of-town advance tickets or further advance ticket information, you may contact Ken Knoke at 250-992-5696 or email KennethLK@shaw.ca.

READ MORE: What a friend Quesnel has in Ellaine’s music

READ MORE: Where the Rivers Meet Country Bluegrass Jamboree: a brief history of the Quesnel festival