Street Festivals

Photo Credit: Jo Boxwell

Street Festivals

👤Jo Boxwell 🕔Jul 31, 2018

A fly fishing guide demonstrates her skills,  sending her line gracefully down a long, shallow pool of water that meets the intersection of George Street and Fifth Avenue. A black canoe built for speed is fixed to a nearby fence and a man in a wetsuit showcases his kayaking skills in a deep, circular pool in front of The Keg. A group of kids hit the ramps on BMX bikes under the shadow of the Ramada.

It’s late May and the weather is holding. Mexican food somehow makes it seem warmer than it actually is (chimichangas or tacos, and ice cream to finish). A small crew is setting up a stage inside a marquee in preparation for the evening’s sold-out street party. Tents fill the sidewalks promoting businesses and community groups that all connect with the theme for this inaugural event. The Biking, Paddling and Fishing Festival is the first installment of the CrossRoads Street Festival Series in downtown Prince George.

CrossRoads Brewing owners Bjorn Butow and Daryl Leiski are hoping their events will bring more people into the area to support local businesses, including their own. But what makes these festivals unique is that they have tied their objective of activating the downtown core to another goal: showcasing local outdoor recreation opportunities. “It’s about bringing together these activities downtown, trying to build some critical mass,” Butow explains.

Proximity to outdoors experiences is one of the main reasons people move to northern communities like Prince George, and yet many local outdoor recreation clubs are struggling to find support. As Butow explored the idea for the festival series, he discovered that many of the clubs in the Prince George area face similar challenges. “They all have common issues of succession plans, membership, promoting themselves,” he says. “These are activities that happen in our community but we don’t see them. They are behind the scenes, in the bush.”

By theming each of the three street festivals around different sports and partnering with those clubs, Butow hopes he can help highlight some of the amazing opportunities Prince George has to offer. He mentions, for instance, the PGMA Blackwater Motorcross Track. “They have a national-level motorcross event every year, and many people don’t know about it. It’s world class.” While there have been other attempts at creating outdoors-themed events in Prince George, they have typically taken place at indoor venues. Butow was hoping to achieve something more interactive with this series, to give attendees a sense of what it is really like to get into some of these sports, and a street festival environment seemed to be the perfect fit. As the festivals grow, he’s hoping there will be more opportunities to incorporate elements that showcase these activities, such as bike and motorsports races.

Kimberley Kenyon was instrumental in making the Northwest Brigade Paddling Club part of the inaugural festival experience. “We realized if we want a community, we’ve got to get out there,” she says. Having the space at this event to demonstrate what they do was definitely a bonus for the club. “Being able to get the pool was a huge step for us, to be able to actually showcase someone in a boat instead of just sitting at a table.”

Outdoors businesses are also invited to participate in the festivals, and May’s event was an ideal opportunity for one start-up to get the word out about their new venture. Veronica Hartman and Lawrence Arnett of Northern Expedition Outfitters hadn’t anticipated just how much attention their tent rental setups would attract from passersby. As Arnett left to try and get more flyers printed, Hartman commented that, “There’s been a lot of interest, a lot of people checking it out and I think it’s new to people. We see rooftop tents on vehicles, but there are a lot of people who didn’t know these even existed.”

If you missed the event in May, there are two more opportunities to catch a CrossRoads Street Festival in 2018. The daytime outdoor recreation shows are free; evening street parties are adults-only ticketed events featuring live music, food, and of course, craft beer. Head down to George Street on the following dates to get a closer look at motorsports, motorcross, jetboating, powersports, skiing and snowboarding:

Saturday, July 14, 2018 – Motorsports, Motocross and Jetboating Festival Saturday, September 29, 2018 – Powersports, Skiing and Snowboarding Festival

— Jo Boxwell