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Those who know me, know I’m not a huge country music fan.  Nor would I say I’m a huge fan of Gospel music, even though I do consider myself a spiritual person.  But, after listening to the Hunter Brothers at the Torch Relay for the Olympics in 2010, and after booking them for a charity concert that benefited Lifeline Haiti (a concert that was opened by the band The Color), I have to say I’m kind of hooked.  The Hunter Brothers are funny, talented, wholesome, handsome goodness! (That just also happen to be from Shaunavon!).

The Hunter Brothers

With so many bad things happening in the world lately, (ie. the recent Colorado shootings at the movie theatre by a seemingly “normal” guy), any chance you can get to get a little positivity within earshot, sounds like a good idea to me.

Enter in the Frenchman River Gospel Jam, an event that will celebrate it’s 21st Anniversary by shaking things up and doing things just a little bit different than they have in the past.

First of all, for the first time ever, they aren’t actually in the Frenchman River Valley, instead they’ll be up in Shaunavon, next to the new Wickenheiser Centre.

The Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre in Shaunavon, SK

It’s also not being held in June like it has for the past 20 years when rain was the order of the day, but on the August long weekend.  And while that weekend should be a great choice weather-wise, the only unfortunate thing for this particular year is, it also happens to be a weekend that many here in the Southwest are referring to as Homecoming Weekend, as part of the “Summer of the Centennial,” as many communities celebrate their 100th Anniversaries.  Something that makes it near impossible for everyone (me included) to do all of the great things that are happening that weekend.  (For more info on Saskatchewan’s “Homecoming” Season – check out the latest issue of Prairie’s North Magazine).

Chatting with one of the Festival organizers by the name of Joel Sopp, he filled me in on some of the things that are different about this year’s Jamboree, and about all the core fundamental things that are staying the same.

“This year it’s more of a festival atmosphere,” says Joel.  “And it’s very family oriented.”

With a bouncy castle for the kids, a blow up water slide, and cotton candy to get them strung out on sugar, they can chill out listening to some of the music that will be offered all weekend, or just jump in Shaunavon’s pool, also located in the Wickenheiser.

Above all, says Sopp, it’s about the music, the feeling of positivity, and about sharing space with those who have strong spiritual beliefs, for an amazing uplifting weekend of fun.

Shawn Pody at last year’s Frenchman River Jamboree

One of the biggest differences with this year’s event compared to past, is that there is a Ticketed event on the Friday evening, something they’ve never attempted before. But, considering the headlining act is Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers, with performances by the Hunter Brothers, Shawn Pody & Fall Creek, and magician/illusionist Lou Leventhal all performing for the price of one ticket, I don’t think $20 in advance, $25 at the door, or $50 for a family is too much to ask for that level of musicality.

Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers  – I’ve Done Enough Dyin’ Today (One of the comments on YouTube for this video was: “If this song don’t knock yer socks off, can only be ’cause y’ain’t got no socks on.” lol)

“We tried to find a wide range of musicians to suit a wide variety of taste and age demographics,” says Joel.  “From southern gospel, like the Hunter Brothers, to local talent like Catherine Lewans, and a young Christian band out of Manitoba called The Color.” (Note: A band I personally had the opportunity to listen to at the Lifeline Haiti concert – and can assure you are amazing!).

“One thing that needs to be said about Gospel music,” say Joel, for those who are doubtful or leery because of the “Gospel” aspect, “is, it’s not just all about Jesus and God, it’s also about love, and the purity of the human spirit, and the beauty you’ll find in nature.”

Catherine Lewans

In addition to the great family entertainment, great music, and free dry camping the event is offering, I think another great aspect that the Jamboree is promoting, is the multi-purpose aspect of Shaunavon’s Wickenheiser Centre.  Originally built to be a multi-purpose facility, up until now, people still only thought of it as a hockey arena, so this event will showcase to people some of the other events it can host.

While the majority of the musical events will be held in the adjoining ball diamond, the Saturday afternoon show of Lou Leventhal (the Illusionist) will be held indoors at the Centre, and should the weather turn nasty, instead of ruining the weekend, all they’ll have to do is move the Jam indoors.

Spending the weekend at the Jam, also gives people a chance to check out the lovely little town of Shaunavon, which thanks to it’s growing oil and gas activity, is becoming quite a centre and hub all it’s own.

“Ultimately it’s about letting people know about Jesus Christ,” says Sopp.  “But it’s also about letting people experience something that’s positive and uplifting.  And after reading the news this morning, I think that’s something we could all use a little more of.

How to GoHere:  Shaunavon is located about 100 kms southwest of Swift Current – just head West down the Trans Canada hwy and make a left at Hwy 37 – then just drive straight till you hit Shaunavon.  Or you can follow this map.

Gotta Go?:  There are bathroom facilities right on the Ballpark grounds, but thinking ahead the Jamboree organizers have also arranged the infamous porta potty patrol to be in attendance.  Campers will also be allowed to have full reign of the showers courtesy of the pool!  (I’m sure they’ll also let you use the washroom at the Centre if you typically avoid porta-potties at all costs!).

Good to Know:

  • This yearly Event runs August 3-5th, 2012 in Shaunavon, SK.
  • Friday is the night for the ticketed event of Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers (with the Hunter Brothers, Shawn Pody & Fall Creek, and Lou Leventhal).  (Tickets in Advance $20, At the Door $25, Family Rate: $50 – Doors open at 5:15pm – Concert starts at 6:30pm)
  • Tickets for Friday’s event can be purchased at the following places or by calling (306) 618-9057.  Swift Current:  Pharmasave/Barber of Seville, Shaunavon:  Snack Shack/Rexall, Frontier:  Norheims/G&R Foods, Eastend:  Co-op.
  • Saturday will feature a Pancake Breakfast at 8:00 am followed by FREE music all day from 10am to 10pm.
  • There is also a youth concert Saturday evening (visit http://www.frgj.ca for more info).
  • There are 45 FREE dry camping spots available for the weekend on the Wickenheiser Grounds, or take a half an hour’s drive and head to Pine Cree Regional Park – a beautiful spot to camp.
  • This is a BYOLC (Bring your own lawn chair) event!
  • There will be an on-site concession available for food both days.
  • You can also get tickets online at http://www.FRGJ.ca
  • Sunday will feature Praise & Worship starting at 10:00am, featuring Shawn Pody & Fall Creek, followed by a message from Pastor Orly Rodriguez of Shaunavon’s Alliance Church.
  • FYI:  If you have teenage daughters they’ll love the Hunter Brothers and The Color (they’re kind of dreamy!) – so don’t forget to use that as leverage if you get the typical teenage resistance!  (The illusionist Lou Leventhal can be the main draw for your teenage boys!).