By Lawrence Powell
Climb over the North Mountain at Middleton, and a whole new world opens up as the might Bay of Fundy comes into view. Hang a left at the T-intersection and you’re in Port George. Do that on July 31 and you’ll hear guitars, fiddles, the big standup bass, singing, and the applause of the crowd. Roll your window down so you can hear the music better – and you’ll likely catch the tantalizing aroma of food cooking.
You can drive on by. That’s up to you. Or you can stop and become part of one of the Annapolis Valley’s most popular and largest music events – the Port George Country Jamboree. Chances are you’re going to stop because there’s just too much temptation in those fields a mere stone’s throw from the beach.
Most people stop. It could be for the 11 hours of non-stop country music. It could be for the food. It could be for the 200-table flea market. Or it could be for the fresh air and sea-side vista that stretches out behind the large stage – you don’t get that often-oppressive heat and humidity here that is so common on the Valley floor just a few kilometers away.
Jamboree organizer Bob Lyle says those are all good reasons to bring a lawn chair and hunker down on the hillside. But there’s more to it than that. Lyle believes all those things combine to create an atmosphere of relaxation kind of unique in today’s fast-paced world – sort of like the tide coming in and washing away all that stress and those day-to-day worries. Sure, there might be songs about heartache, lost love, and bad relationships, but they’re happening to somebody else, not you.
Lyle says that for 27 years now, the most common feedback Jamboree organizers hear is about that relaxing atmosphere. That’s why people keep coming back, swelling Port George’s tiny population by as many as 3,000 or more that one day a year.
This year is the 28th edition of the Port George Country Jamboree, organized by the community and the Lions Clubs from Middleton, Kingston, and Lawrencetown. With an ear to visitor feedback over the years, organizers have found perfect pitch and aren’t likely to tinker with the tuning too much because if you turn that peg too far you’ll eventually go flat.
It is literally 11 hours of live country music. That’s the hook. Throw in what Lyle calls ‘the fabulous food,’ the all-day flea market, a pancake breakfast (7 a.m.), activities for kids, supper (4 to 6 p.m.), lots of parking, and the option of camping onsite – and what’s not to like?
Lyle’s fab food includes the likes of fish and chips, strawberry shortcake, lobster rolls, fruit smoothies, Freezies, or just a hamburger or hotdog. Lyle admits to having at least one lobster roll each jamboree, a temptation he doesn’t have the will to resist.
He needs his energy because not only will you see him on the stage as jamboree chair, host, and em-cee, but all over the large grounds conferring with his 33 co-chairs who are part of the group of 245 volunteers who pull the show together and bring it off without a hitch.
“It comes out good,” Lyle said. “They’re a real good group of people – the Lions and the people from the community – they help make my job easy.”
He’s particularly proud of the jamboree as being a family event. Kids are a priority and parents can watch the little ones in the Bouncer, or riding the Lion's Kiddies Train. And the youngsters can enjoy face painting, the duck pond, lolly pop pull, and the ‘chip hop for prizes.
Camping is popular for a couple of reasons – it’s just fun, and some people are travelling to Port George from the far reaches of the province. In fact they come from all over western Nova Scotia – New Germany, Shelburne, Yarmouth.
Lyle says that for many, the jamboree is that one event where family and friends who haven’t been in touch for a while catch up on things, maybe chew the fat a bit, and have some fun. In the campground you might see somebody pull out a guitar and show you the tunes he’s been working on. It’s that sort of place.
Lyle says if you want to camp call Doug at 902-825-3860 for camping information. To book a flea market table call Frank at 902-825-4645.
Seniors aren’t forgotten either. You need a ride up the hill to your car and they have staff and vehicles for that.
The Port George Country Jamboree is a fundraiser. Proceeds go back into the local community. For the Lions, they take money raised and help less fortunate people in the Kingston, Middleton, Lawrencetown areas. Port George also invests any profits back into the community.
Lyle also points out that the thousands of visitors who turn out for the jamboree can feel good about more than just having a great time – they are the ones who are supporting community.
“Having fun and helping people out at the same time – it doesn’t get any better than that,” Lyle says.
Add to that the local economic spinoff of hundreds converging on the area, and Lyle says there are no losers.
The jamboree is held rain or shine. Gates open at 7 a.m. For more information visit www.countryjamboree.ca.
-- 9 to 10 a.m. – Hill Billy Magic
-- 10 to 11 a.m. – Old Country
-- 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Vintage Country
-- 12 to 1 p.m. – Dave Burbine & Traditional Country
-- 1 to 2 p.m. -- Straight Out
-- 2 to 3 p.m. – Re Boot
-- 3 to 4 p.m. – The Country Rhythm Tones
-- 4 to 5 p.m. -- Spur of the Moment
-- 5 to 6 p.m. – Ernie Marshall & Friends
-- 6 to 7 p.m. – Porter’s House
-- 7 to 8 p.m. – Straight Out