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Gateway Jamboree returns to Enterprise, N.W.T., in spite of last summer's wildfire

North Country Rock on stage at the Gateway Jamboree.   (Submitted by Norby Poitras - image credit)
North Country Rock on stage at the Gateway Jamboree. (Submitted by Norby Poitras - image credit)

The Gateway Jamboree in Enterprise, N.W.T. is a go this year. The beloved family event will be held Aug. 9 to 11.

The community suffered devastating losses in last summer's wildfire, losing almost 90 per cent of the hamlet. Past attendees were unsure if the jamboree would continue this year.

But event organizers like Evellyn Coleman say the town is resilient and needs the jamboree now more than ever.

"It's just that sense of being able to meet with your neighbours and enjoy the day and the camaraderie," she said.

"That jamboree is just like nothing I've ever been to before — the amount of people that come to the door, the happiness, the joy people have with it."

Jamboree in its 25th year

Although they had to take a two-year break due to COVID-19, 2024 will mark the 25th year of the jamboree. The event hosts world class musical talent, games and prizes for adults and kids, and great food.

Pat Burke, who has been performing at the jamboree for more than 20 years, said he can't wait to be up on the stage performing with his friends and fellow musicians.

"We're ready to go," he said. "I mean, I want to sing. So I'm ready to rock. I'm 72. I'll be 73 by the time that sucker comes around. But that doesn't mean I wont be up there rockin."

Twenty-five years is a significant milestone for a community of less than 100 people, he said. But for that, Burke credits the community for making the event special.

"After the fires, you're just wondering, is it gonna happen? Is it not? And of course, being resilient as they are, the people of Enterprise [said], 'Yes, yes, yes. Let's do it!'"

"I gotta give credit to the people and then the volunteers and just the whole community as a whole."

Performers on stage at the Gateway Jamboree.
Performers on stage at the Gateway Jamboree.

Performers on stage at the Gateway Jamboree. ( Submitted by Barb Hart)

It's an event Burke looks forward to every year, he said, and not just because he wants to perform.

He loves watching the other artists as well.

"It's something for everybody," he said.

"We go from country music to blues to rock to, you know, whatever style. And we even had some people that did classical stuff, and it was accepted."

He also enjoys watching the youth go up and perform, sometimes for the first time.

"They're shy. But then once they open up, it's just — that's our future musicians. That something else, when we have all these young people that want to be involved in music," he said.

"Every one of us that attend these festivals will be there for these young people and support them as much as we can."

Burny the Beaver greats families at the Gateway Jamboree.
Burny the Beaver greats families at the Gateway Jamboree.

Burny the Beaver greats families at the Gateway Jamboree. (Submitted by Barb Hart)

Coleman agreed, saying she admires the spirit of camaraderie the jamboree has. She is also proud of the attendance numbers they get; last year it was almost 1,000.

"When you think about a community that has 100 people being able to host that many people," she said. "We have a great group of volunteers that want to come back every year."

"It's just that it's the one thing that's been constant in people's lives for a number of years."

The jamboree will be an opportunity for residents to put the devastation of last summer in the back pocket for a few days and reconnect with their neighbours, she said.

"Enterprise has been the saving grace for Hay River over the last couple of years. And then [the fire] happens. So, you know, we need people to come and celebrate with us."