Following time and effort, organizers are calling this year’s Hay Days the best so far.
“After last year’s smaller festival, we’re really trying to get back to our roots and grow the event in the new location,” said co-organizer Jared Monkman. “Being here at the beach has been great.”
Hundreds of people turned out for concerts, art shows, and markets spread over three days last weekend.
Performances started in town at the Doghouse Sportsbar and the Back Eddy on Friday night, with festivities moving to the public beach for Saturday and Sunday. Monkman said there have been more venues running simultaneously in previous years, but that by having fewer things going on, they were all better attended.
“The kick-off was awesome,” he said, adding that he himself had performed Friday night. “If we wanted to have more acts, we would need a few other stages, but this is a good-sized site for right now.”
Monkman said the toughest part of organizing the event this year has been getting everything set to run at the beach.
He said the campground, owned by the Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment (ITI), hadn’t been ready to host the event, but that the local department was supportive of the effort.
“Ideally, we would like to have a permanent stage here and be able to have performances all summer,” he said. “Maybe an area for kids’ acts further down the beach or something.”
While there were a couple of acts in from Yellowknife and Fort Smith, Monkman said the vast majority of performers and artists were Hay Riverites. Other years have seen more groups travelling to the festival and he said he and other organizers hoped to see the number rise again next year, but for now were more than happy with the turnout.
Hay Days isn’t only for grown-up music and art lovers; there were games and activities on hand for smaller revelers too.
“It’s been going really good,” said co-organizer Jayne Haywood Saturday. “It got off to a bit of a slow start, but it’s really started filling up.”
A bouncy castle and other kids’ games were set up near the water for the weekend and proved to be popular. Haywood said the group had intentionally made sure to have entertainment during the days to attract families who maybe hadn’t wanted to come out in previous years.
“I think once people get used to us being at this site, it will be more and more popular,” she said.
The new beach location was also a hit with those spending time on stage. Jacob Barker has served as emcee for three years worth of Hay Days events and said this year’s was definitely the best ever.
“I think it’s awesome this year,” he said. “Compared to last year and the one before, and it definitely exceeded my expectations for the event. Being here at the beach for this kind of festival is pretty great.”