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County fair startup seeks city sponsorship

The organizer of a new county fair planned in Fort St. John is seeking a $55,000 cash sponsorship from the city to bring the likes of Randy Bachman and Ricky Skaggs to town for an inaugural event this summer.
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The organizer of a new county fair planned in Fort St. John is seeking a $55,000 cash sponsorship from the city to bring the likes of Randy Bachman and Ricky Skaggs to town for an inaugural event this summer.

Dale Plourde gave city councillors an overview of his ambitious three-year plan for the Energetic County Fair on Monday, which he hopes to grow into a “signature summer festival” for the city.

“I see incredible opportunity here,” Plourde told councillors, noting Fort St. John was once proclaimed the “Music Capital of Northern B.C.” in 2009.

“I do know we have had a lot of great performers and musicians here, and I know we do have a lot of great artists and performers that are in their basements. They’re everywhere. For us to be the music capital in Northern B.C. is fantastic, so there’s obviously a call to do something, in my eyes, and maybe become the music capital of Western Canada.”

This year’s event is tentatively slated for July 15 and 16 at Centennial Park, with Hall of Fame headliners Bachman and Skaggs lined up to generate buzz. 

“The vision is to have concerts and music and dance,” Plourde said of the fair. “Food's always a big part of culture. I’ve been talking to the Filipino and East Indian community and, of course, First Nations, the art and culture of all those places."

Plourde told council he’s already raised $50,000 for the event, and a $55,000 sponsorship from the city as a main presenter would bring him up to $105,000 — enough for deposits and to make the fair a reality, he said.

“The good news about that is I can assure you it’s the best $55,000 of taxpayer money you can have,” Plourde told council. “Dawson Creek had to spend tens of millions of dollars to get that recognition and build the Encana Events Centre. We don’t do that. We already have a great venue to produce something actually that I think will be more fun than going to the Encana Events Centre.”

He estimated the fair could generate $1.2 million in economic benefits this year, and up to $3.1 million as he looks to grow the fair into a 10-day event across multiple venues, with more headliners and activities such as a carnival midway, car shows, and cook-offs, as well as opportunities for  nonprofits to get involved with fundraising. 

Plourde himself is no stranger to some of the biggest stars in the music industry, and says his plans come from 40 years of preparation and an early exposure music growing up as a child. 

Born and raised in Saulteau and Moberly Lake, he told council his band Quicksilver toured across Canada in the 1980s, while his career from there saw him open venues in Kamloops, run the historic Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, and play drums for the likes of Sarah McLachlan, and Nickelback for their very first independent CD release show.

“Like all small town B.C. people, I took a hankering for music when I was three years old. I got a ukulele for Christmas and I learned to play it and started singing at a very young age,” said Plourde.

He moved back to Fort St. John two years ago, noting both the growth of the city and region, and that the city has set the stage for events such as his to improve the quality of life for residents. He says the fair would create opportunities for local performers to share the stage with prominent, world-renowned musicians.

“What that does for our younger performers and our First Nations community is that draws the people, puts them on the same stage, which elevates them up to that level,” Plourde said.  

City councillors appeared generally receptive of the idea, asking questions about insurance coverage and COVID safety plans, and how Plourde planned to carry the event over from year to year.

They voted to direct city staff to prepare a full report on the proposed festival, and where sponsorship funding would come from, for its consideration at a future meeting.

Read Plourde's proposal and presentation to council below:

Energetic County Fair Presentation to Fort St. John City Council by AlaskaHighwayNews on Scribd


Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca