Jam in Jubilee strives to connect the Abbotsford community

Organizers aim to provide activity for youth and all ages, attract people to downtown core

Coby Piazza

Coby Piazza

Jam in Jubilee provides free entertainment for people of all ages, but for the event’s organizers, the festival is also about creating engagement between Abbotsford residents and the city’s downtown core.

For six weeks this summer, Abbotsford’s Jubilee Park will be host to live music, performers, an artisan market and more. Jam in Jubilee – a six-week summer music festival –runs each Thursday between July 11 and Aug. 15. Each evening starts off with an artisan market at 6 p.m. followed by local musicians and performers from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Jam in Jubilee began nine years ago, originally run by the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA). Four years ago, Sophia Suderman took over organizing the event, which is still made possible with a grant from the ADBA.

Suderman is the co-founder of the Atangard Community Project, a not-for-profit community-living project in the Fraser Valley Inn on Essendene Avenue. As a resident of Abbotsford’s downtown core, Suderman wanted to further build community outside the walls of the Atangard.

“I was living downtown and really enjoying that, and I wanted to see more vibrancy downtown.”

Stephen O’Shea, Coby Piazza and Derrick Swallow all joined the executive three years ago, and serve as lead organizers for the festival. Each grew up in Abbotsford, and now strive to create an outlet for youth and people of all ages – providing entertainment, community and a place to celebrate the arts in Abbotsford.

O’Shea, artistic director of the festival, said he books mainly local bands, many of whom are active in Abbotsford’s live music community. He said he makes an effort to find musicians that are palatable to the largest number of community members, creating an eclectic mix that becomes more youth-oriented as the night gets later.

“We’re people who grew up here, who care about the arts and about music, who just want to see the town that they grew up in be more enjoyable for youth.”

Though 20-somethings are the largest demographic drawn in by the festival, Piazza said they incorporate the interests of all people invested in Abbotsford’s downtown, including businesses and community groups.

“It’s nice to see all the groups of different people that have a stake in downtown that want to help out in their own ways.”

Last year, the average attendance per evening was 720 people; the busiest night on record drew in 1,000 attendees.

The organizers agree that drawing such a large crowd to Jubilee Park is an accomplishment in itself and hope to see attendance rise.

Despite its downtown location, Jubilee Park often remains empty, with a lingering reputation of being unsafe.

“(In) a park that is traditionally considered inner-city and unsafe, to have that many people in the park and engaged in interacting with the community is definitely the best part of what we do,” said O’Shea.

With community engagement as a goal, organizers say they are always seeking input and contributions from the community. They hope to draw in new volunteers who can bring ideas and move the festival forward in future years.

“One of the neatest things is seeing how it grows with the different people coming in and having ideas,” said Suderman, adding that each year they try to incorporate a new idea, leading to the addition of a side stage, a film festival and beer gardens.

For now, they hope to encourage all members to come out and enjoy what Jam in Jubilee has to offer.

This year, Jam in Jubilee is seeking volunteers for each Thursday of the festival to help with greeting, collecting donations and serving in the beer gardens.

They are also seeking vendors and film submissions; anyone interested can contact info@jaminjubilee.com. For more information about performers, vendors and scheduling, visit jaminjubilee.com.















Community members gather at the 2012 Jam in Jubilee festival. (Submitted photo.)