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Dene Sangris, 11, D.J. Drygeese, 9, middle, and Dakota Mackeinzo, 12, who were at the Long John Jamboree food tent Sunday afternoon, all seemed to really love the children's games, the food and the helicopter rides over the weekend. - Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

Busy days down on the bay
Second annual Long John Jamboree deemed a success by organizers

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The second annual Long John Jamboree has come and gone and, by all accounts, locals are warming to the idea of red underwear as a winter carnival symbol.

Organizers couldn't pin down the exact number of people who attended, but there was indications that the site was busier this year.

"The general sense from the volunteers and from those involved last year was that it was much busier," said president Adrian Bell. "If you count the participants on Saturday evening with the Fire and Ice event and bonfire transients, that puts us way, way over last year's numbers."

Despite an overly cold yet bright winter weekend, visitors to the jamboree site on Yellowknife Bay had a blast.

"It was still the same temperature as last year, but it is nice to have the sun (this year)," said Camilla MacEachern, who with her friend, Erika Nyyssonen, were seen admiring the ice sculptures on Sunday afternoon. "But you can tell there has been a lot of effort put into this jamboree. It shows and I think it is safe to say that it is here to stay."

The De Beers Inspired Ice Carvings, which were placed front and center on the jamboree site, were an obvious favourite time and time again when organizers and residents were asked what is the best part of the event. With 10 teams competing, up from seven last year, local observers noted the detail and the amount of work put into the pieces.

Ray and Olga Pirker were seen admiring them late Sunday afternoon as some of crowds were beginning to dwindle.

"They are beautiful, just beautiful," said Ray. "It is really incredible how a person can visualize something and make it out of a chopped piece of ice."

A common favourite among the pieces was the Guardian of the Deep, the first-place contest winner by Dean Murray of Kiel, Wis., and Chan Kitburi of Lake Stevens, Wash.

"There was a nice designing composition of that theme," said judge and National Ice Carving Association president Ken Dietrich, who said the piece was one of the best he has ever judged.

"You could come to that piece and see through all the detail and the hard work that was put into it that there was a live story there. When you can see that in a piece, it really helps the crowd be more engaging. From the head to the hand, to the rope holding the hook, which tells a story about the sword, the scale and muscle work on that piece was just amazing."

Despite the heavy emphasis on the ice sculptures, they weren't always the favourite.

The 350-plus rides provided by Great Slave Helicopters over the weekend drew a big crowd, as well, especially with the kids.

Dene Sangris, 11, for example, was hanging out with friends near the food tent Sunday and called his ride "awesome."

"We went really high and the trees looked so tiny!" added five-year-old Shayde Huszar, 5, who was walking about with his nanny Sandra on Sunday.

Saturday night saw some of the biggest crowds the site has drawn to date with the Fire and Ice event, featuring a giant bonfire and fireworks - new elements added to the schedule this year.

"I was astounded by the number of people who were there for the Fire and Ice Saturday night," said volunteer and board member Janet Pacey. "I thought that was brilliant. It was also super important to us to have the fireworks because we couldn't find the sponsors for it last year."

Organizers said there was also an effort to have more events for children, which included a kid's tent this year and carnival games like bowling and Plinko.

Food services were expanded for this year's event.

The board of directors for the jamboree had initially signed up for a two to three year commitment and changes aren't expected until at least the fall, when the annual general meeting is held, according to coordinator Nancy MacNeill.

"In that sense, some of our directors are up for re-election this year, but we won't have anything super concrete until the fall AGM," she said.

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