Updated: Jun 27, 2022
*Editor's note: this article originally appeared in our February edition*
By Shelbey Savoie
“It’s really about enjoying the people and the music around you.” What once began as a small backyard gathering for Colin Jolly and his friends ten years ago has now become a full-fledged summer music festival nestled inside the boreal forest just a few minutes drive south of La Ronge. Over the years the annual Napatak Ramble has grown into what it is today - a major community event that celebrates local art and music talents of all ages. Taking place July 1st and 2nd, make sure to mark your calendar, bring your family, and get ready for their biggest concert to date!
Known locally as “The Ramble”, its humble beginnings were simply at Colin’s home in Napatak, a small resort community 10 kilometers south of the town of La Ronge. According to Colin, who has coordinated the music festival since its’ inception, all it took was a call from a friend who wanted to get together to play a house concert as a way to spend time with family and friends and enjoy the beautiful scenery Saskatchewan’s north has to offer. “I’ve always wanted to start some kind of annual thing. I figured it would be a few friends in the backyard, just hanging out, listening to music and year after year it grew and grew and grew.” Reflecting back on the past ten years, it now requires a complete stage build-up, ticket purchases, acts from all over the province and includes youth workshops bringing in an audience of over 500 people and thrives with each coming year.
While The Ramble has definitely evolved since 2012, as well as moving to the location of Rabbit Creek twenty kilometers south of town, it still remains an intimate staple in La Ronge. Community members have readily embraced it as a family fun weekend to unwind and take in some of Saskatchewan’s leading artists, including the many musicians within the tri-communities of La Ronge, Air Ronge and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. “I know that a lot of community members like it and enjoy coming,” Jolly said of the Ramble’s local reception, but also noted that it is a wonderful opportunity for anyone who would like to schedule an event during a trip north. “I also know we have visitors who come up here to experience the north and take in a music festival as they get out on the land which is great.” Truly a community effort, Jolly explained how prior to the event, the facilitators, which is a group of around fifty people and their families, come out to the site and all work towards the common goal of making The Ramble a success. “It’s just such a happy time.”
The Napatak Ramble prides itself on being a family friendly event and has expanded over the years to involve youth with what they call the “Kids Camp”. This is a one-day event prior to The Ramble where performing musicians provide workshops for children in art, music and dance. They spend the day honing in on their individual skills, whether it’s visual or performance art, which is then displayed during the festival. Those in the music workshop use the day to produce a song and then officially become the opening act of the Ramble. Another feature of theirs is how despite their growth they’ve been able to keep their cozy venue feeling and that has remained attractive for many festivalgoers. “It’s a smaller festival with the beautiful, Northern scenery around us and gets the viewers up and dancing.” Jolly told NSMZ, “Seeing the kids play on stage after they just took in the ‘Kids Camp’ and having everyone together, you look around and you just know everyone there. I think people really catch that vibe and they just want to do it again year after year.” They have now become deliberate and important elements that make the Napatak Ramble uniquely its own.
When asked what will be making the tenth Ramble the best one yet, Colin entertained us with the following, “I can’t give it away but I will say that we’re excited to announce the lineup. We’re going to be adding more workshops during the day. We’ve also added a lot more Indigenous content this year and have some big names coming, which is going to be fantastic. The ‘Kids Camp’ is going to be bigger and better this year as well. Everything will be bigger and better this year.” A positive team effort, the festival has been funded by local sponsors and maintained by volunteers that work all year round to make this a true success for the La Ronge area. The Ramble coordinators are also planning to have a brand new stage built for this year and will require some outside fundraising and sponsorship.
The 10th Annual Napatak Ramble is the perfect way to spend this year’s Canada Day weekend with your family right in the heart of our province’s beautiful boreal forest. The Ramble is still looking for any Saskatchewan acts that want to be a part of the lineup and will accept e-auditions until February 25th, 2022. For more information on how to audition, as well as workshop sign up details, line up announcements, ticket info, fundraising or sponsorship and all things Ramble, it is available through their Napatak Ramble Facebook page as well as www.napatakramble.com.