Old Town’s signature summer festival made its live and in-person return July 30 to Aug. 1.

Ramble and Ride was held virtually last year due to the threat of COVID-19.

Last weekend, the music, art, workshops, food and tours could be enjoyed while actually being surrounded by other people on site. There’s really no substitution for delightful reactions from a crowd and interaction with familiar neighbours and other city dwellers we’re meeting for the first time. The brain trust behind Teams, Zoom and other online communications platforms simply cannot replicate that.

It was the 15th year for Ramble and Ride. Coordinator Amy Badgley estimated that more than 1,200 passed through the site over the three days.

The turnout was a pretty solid rebound despite little advertising. Some Yellowknifers didn’t even hear about the festival until it was over, unfortunately. Those who did go appeared to thoroughly enjoy themselves, however.

But all good things eventually ride off into the sunset. Will we allow Ramble and Ride to be one of them?

Lisa Seagrave, one of the festival’s founders, reflected on the event’s history earlier this week. She spoke of a rich tapestry of business owners who collaborated with musicians, artists and cooks to create and grow this annual celebration.

But after 15 years, many of the original board members who have stuck it out for so long are running out of steam.

Seagrave made it clear that new volunteers are needed to step up and bring fresh ideas and energy to Ramble and Ride. Without them, the ride will surely come to an abrupt end.

“After 15 years, several of us have said it’s just too much work to go forward with, for the small corps of individuals that we have,” she said.

Yellowknife is only 20,000 people. The arts community is only a fraction of that. Artists who are motivated to get involved and steer the ship are only a fraction of a fraction.

But the gauntlet has been thrown down and it’s up to some creative and determined minds with a passion for the arts to keep Ramble and Ride alive, or the festival will have run its course.

Make no mistake, there are some tenacious and persistent artists in the city. We recently witnessed an act of perseverance when the Yellowknife Artists Co-operative signed a contract that converted the Wildcat Cafe into a centre for the arts, at least for the summer.

That’s allowing us to savour jam sessions with musicians and artists, writing circles, drawing classes, a beading workshop, dance events and Kundalini yoga, among other activities.

Roland Laufer, the Yellowknife Artists Co-operative’s treasurer, spoke of the importance of involving Indigenous artists, including as board members. It’s an inclusive approach.

Sofia Grogono, coordinator for the centre for the arts, added: “There’s some beautiful partnerships that are in the works. There’s a lot of generosity, a lot of business, small businesses are stepping up and offering donations and sponsorships.”

Those circumstances sound similar to the genesis of Old Town Ramble and Ride. So we may be witnessing the passing of the torch from one artistic outlet to another, or perhaps both will remains fixtures.

It’s a picture that local artists and volunteers will paint.

Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...

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