FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Like a prize-winning garden at a traditional county fair, the Energetic County Fair has taken root and is quickly sprouting according to plans set by organizer Dale Plourde and in line with strict deadlines set by Fort St. John’s city council. 

Though the four stages of deadlines and the requirements needed to meet them in the months leading up to the music festival may seem like a lot, Plourde is “not at all” worried about meeting them on time.

“It is a lot of work,” he said. But he explains that the timeline, which includes acquiring various licenses, insurance, and risk management plans, is actually fairly relaxed. 

Plourde and the site manager working with him have a combined 75 years of experience planning and running events like this and larger. They have both handled shorter timelines than the one stapled to this event.

“Sometimes I’ve had shows that I’ve had to get together in a month, right? And promote them and sell tickets.” Plourde explained.

This event has been in the works since September 2021. Council’s timeline for the remaining permits and documentation, the first deadline of which is May 20th, has not fazed him.

Several, though not all, of the elements required for this phase – and even some in the second phase, like liquor licenses – are set to be completed by the end of the week. 

With the plans progressing, Plourde is confident the festival will exist in the physical world and not solely the digital one: the event’s significant presence on social media, crafted by Plourde, has been a criticism levied by skeptics of the festival concerned with the event’s real-world arrangements.

A promoter by trade, Plourde knows that creating that all-important buzz and word of mouth is vital.

“It’s so important to create excitement in a way. So, I think that being in the digital spaces is important… to keep people engaged. And, from what I’ve seen, it’s working.” 

Treating social media and the buzz it builds as trivial is “an uneducated, inaccurate” way of thinking about social media, Plourde said.

He continued to explain how he thinks about this element of his work in terms of time: where organizing a festival will take hundreds of hours, an effective social media post takes five minutes. And he has no trouble coming up with posts.

“There’s so much to talk about. There’s 17 artists playing in three days and a lot of them are local and there’s so much [that] hasn’t ever happened in the community.”

Though the novelty of the first of what Plourde intends to be an annual event is part of its allure, it is also the source of the snares that the event has seen with the city. It has been called a “guinea pig” for the city, and Plourde agrees.

The first of these snags was the original plan to use Centennial park for the festival, which the city rejected for a myriad of reasons. The second was the four-stage timeline to ensure the city sees requirements and documentation in time. This timeline and the dates it requires have been the subject of a few miscommunications so far, but Plourde believes these can all be straightened out and met on time. 

Though the festival’s first year has not been ideal by any means, Plourde is grateful for the updated timeline and honoured by the city’s willingness to embrace the project.

“It was capable in this community,” Plourde said.

“The fact is that we’re able to start somewhere and [the festival] definitely will prove itself.”

Though Plourde is incredibly excited about the plans for the Energetic County Fair are quickly blossoming, watching the community come together to help realize this event is a highlight.

“Just the amount of people reaching out saying, can I help be a part of this? Because that is the thing that feels the best. That’s awesome.”

Grace Giesbrecht

Grace Giesbrecht is a news reporter for EnergeticCity.ca who recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a bachelor of arts in Media + Communications. She was born and raised just outside of Fort St. John. She began reporting for her university’s student newspaper and interned with Ottawa Life Magazine where she developed a passion for asking questions, telling stories, and the written word. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, snowboarding, or reading novels.