Jamboree looked little different, but it still was fun

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home folks have been waiting to see what the outcome would be with an Oregon Jamboree line-up that lacked the mega-stars who have headlined recent festivals.

In some senses, this year’s Jamboree wasn’t what previous ones have been. The crowds were not huge, though there was a lot of enthusiasm, particularly with headliners Brantley Gilbert, Clint Black and Brett Eldredge. But it was a little weird, after years of packed houses on the Sweet Home High School athletic fields, seeing it not so packed.

As is evident from our story on page 7, people we talked to had a good time – and that’s the point.

There hasn’t been a whole lot of comment from the Sweet Home Economic Development Group regarding what their plan is, but the basics are pretty clear: save money by not paying out millions – literally – to top-flight artists and hope the overall experience is enough to bring back the people who have made the Jamboree what it is: the patrons and the volunteers who return year after year because they like the festival.

The reality is that SHEDG could not continue doing what it’s been doing for the last decade or so: operating in the red and watching its reserves steadily trickle away.

We won’t know how this thing tallied up this year because, typically, Jamboree officials don’t report the financial outcome until late in the year, after bills have been paid.

We’ve noted before on this page that it’s very important for SHEDG to stay closely connected to the community it represents. That’s going to be even more critical now. SHEDG and its board do represent the community and its interests, much like elected officials do. That puts it in a little different category from typical nonprofits in terms of the need for communication and connection with the public, which haven’t always been good.

The kick-off party on Thursday was a great way to connect. Festival Director Robert Shamek was out there to press the flesh and it gave members of the community, especially some who might not otherwise be able to attend, a chance to get a taste of what the Jamboree is.

The Jamboree is the amalgamation of basic business principles with a lot of effort from a lot of people. It has to make money, with the ultimate goal of providing funds for economic development in Sweet Home. To be profitable, it needs those volunteers, and they have to be committed to seeing this through.

People tell us they like coming here for the festival. The Jamboree grounds is a pleasant venue, particularly with Sankey Park attached.

Yes, it’s taxing. We have traffic and noise and inconvenience. When the population of the city doubles for four days, there are going to be wrinkles.

But if the patrons enjoy themselves, if they are getting enough bang for their buck and if the volunteers stay committed, this will continue to be a great experience.