Opportunity knocks at Jamboree

It’s not too hard to find a lot of things to like about this year’s Oregon Jamboree.

The weather, other than that little mist that came down during the opening act on Friday and wisped over the crowd from time to time throughout the evening, was just about as perfect as you could hope for at this time of year. I haven’t been here that long (this was my fourth Jamboree), but I’ll take a little mist over those blazing 100-degree temps we had a few years ago.

If you were a country music fan, the music was great. My own tastes in music range far beyond one genre, and I tend to prefer older country music over a lot of the more modern stuff. I really enjoyed that Randy Owen performance.

Listening to live bands,though, is a sight better than listening to a CD or a radio, no matter what the music is. And even if you aren’t a die-hard fan, the Jamboree is much, much more than music. It’s an experience and it was a lot of fun for almost everybody who was there, gathering from the responses our reporters got from people in the audience. If you haven’t tried it, you should buy a ticket for at least a day and check it out.

It’s amazing when you walk through the gates and see the transformation that takes place as the high school athletic fields are converted into a giant festival grounds. After years of practice, the volunteers who do most of this work have it down to a science and this year’s festival was about as smooth as you could ask for when you bring 12,000 or more people, luxery RVs and a giant stage onto a few football fields.

It was quite a show.

Now that the thrills are over, though, it’s time to let Sweet Home Economic Development Group officials figure the proceeds and to make some mental notes for next time.

I really want to salute the local businesses and entrepreneurs who decided this year to try to take advantage of the presence of the folks who doubled the size of our town. More businesses than in the past several years had signs out welcoming the visitors. Some extended their hours.

One family had a hot dog stand located on 18th Avenue, between Main and Long streets. They weren’t making a killing when I stopped by on Saturday morning, and they were weighing the possibility of closing down if business didn’t pick up in a few hours. We brainstormed some ideas as to what they could do to get people’s attention. Location change? Different signage? Coupons for free food?

I didn’t get a chance to stop by later to see how they were doing, due to other obligations, but I hope things picked up for them. Their product looked very good and so did their prices.

And they weren’t the only ones. That’s encouraging because, instead of locking up and leaving town for the weekend, local merchants were showing the entrepreneurial energy that it’s going to take to make a difference in Sweet Home’s economy. It isn’t easy. If things went well this weekend, great. If they didn’t, it’s time to figure out what needs to happen to turn that around.

And that, let’s remember, is what SHEDG is really all about. We get caught up in the inconveniences of the Jamboree: the traffic (I heard complaints on Friday about RV’s running stop signs as they came into town); the shenanigans (yes, not everybody tempers their intake); the noise, etc. There’s a bonehead in every crowd.

But overall, as Sean Morgan reports on the story starting on page 1, things went rather well. The cops were busy but nobody did anything really stupid, or at least got caught. There were a few glitches, but there should be a pretty good payoff in the end.

The proceeds will be tallied up and announced in a couple of months. Yes, the money goes to SHEDG and yes, SHEDG is busy trying to purchase a permanent site that would be used for the Jamboree and, hopefully, many other events that will bring people to town.

There may not be an immediate, direct flow of cash into the local economic turnarond effort from this Jamboree’s profits. But look at what the Jamboree was this year compared to 10 or 15 years ago, when local business owners and SHEDG officials had to reach into their own wallets to keep that thing going. Progress is happening.

While SHEDG works on getting land, it’s time to think about what our commercial district occupants can do to be ready when that amphitheater gets built. What do you think those folks walking our streets over the weekend were looking for? What kinds of things need to be on the shelves to get them into our stores? What’s kind of strategic planning is necessary to make people aware of what we have to offer?

The challenge, as it’s been all along, is to figure out how to get dollars flowing, not just inside the Jamboree compound, but on the streets outside as well.

We have some energy right now. A lot of people are interested in doing what it takes to turn things around.

The Jamboree was created to provide these opportunities and let’s stay entreprenurial as we prepare for the next time the music starts to play.