Wednesday, 02 September 2015 16:21

Quonset Days pulls in $60,000 for ALS Society

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Quonset Days, the “Great Outdoor Party on Dirt” which is held on the Biemans’ farmstead near Seven Persons, Alta., had its greatest revenue generator in its growing history in 2015.

With performers the Chevelles, Phoenix, The Glorious Sons and headliner Jason Blaine, Janet Biemans, one of the organizers of the July 17-18 Quonset Days announced Aug. 27, the event raised $60,000 this year.
That money will be sent to the ALS Society of Alberta, which has been the charity of choice for the annual event. This will add to the $150,000 they had already raised in the previous five years.
“Including volunteers and staff we had around 900 people per day this year. Camping spots were filled well before the gates opened on Friday. Since we have limited space, we won't be able to get much larger,” explained Biemans Aug. 28. “We have such amazing volunteers helping us each year that it never seems to get overwhelming. It may be a little crazy leading up to it but once the gates open we just kind of go with the flow. We try to prepare for everything that could possibly happen so if something were to come up it is easily handled.”
The first official Quonset Days was held in 2010 and raised $7,500 in a little over a month of planning and organizing. Since then, the fundraiser has grow in popularity, scope and size.
The event has been held in tribute to Peter Biemans, a man who lost his life to ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). It “is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle weakness, paralysis, and ultimately, respiratory failure.” According to the ALS Society of Alberta, every day, two to three Canadians die of the disease.
For Janet, it's been a fitting tribute from herself and her son and daughter to her late husband Peter. A lot of effort is put into the event. She is pleased with how this year went, but never takes anything for granted.
She acknowledges the world-wide juggernaut the ALS ice bucket challenge turned into.
“We think of every year as a break out year. We are always tweaking things from year to year so that things run as smoothly as possible and so that everyone enjoys themselves. I think our steady growth is mainly due to more people hearing about us. Our ‘regulars’ are showing up with larger groups every year,” explained Biemans. “While the Ice Bucket Challenge definitely raised awareness about ALS, I don’t think it affected our ticket sales one way or the other.
“The entertainment we were able to bring in this year had more to do with it than anything. We don’t get a lot of sleep during the weekend (maybe four or five hours Friday night) so getting caught up on sleep is a high priority. Everything is cleaned up Sunday and tents are taken down on Tuesday. After that it is lots of paperwork and making arrangements to collect on auction items. It usually takes a couple months to finalize all the paperwork and get everything sent to the ALS office in Calgary.”
Biemans said there were no problems this year. Once the weather decided to co-operate everything seemed to run smoothly. The majority of the patrons have been coming since the first year so even if the rain had continued everyone was dressed for it.
There was not any drastic changes to this year’s edition as compared to in the past.
“We always make a few changes each year. Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t,” Janet noted. “This year we hired professional security. We will definitely keep doing this. It was something we looked after ourselves in the past, but hiring it out was one less thing we had to look after. We also had our sponsors more visible. Over the winter we built a new bar with an area on the front to display our sponsor’s names. These sponsored also tended bar for a few hours.
“We (also) tried a few games on Friday night between the bands. We are looking for some new games for next year. Getting the crowd involved is something we love doing. I think that’s why the pedal tractor races are so popular. Every suggestion we get is discussed. If it is something we think might work then we give it a try. Sometimes we just can’t afford to try the ideas, like suggestions for bands. We would love to have an unlimited budget, but in the end Quonset Days is a fundraiser so we have to be very careful on where and how we spend the money.”
Biemans added planning for 2016 started even before 2015 was held.
The organizing committee is always looking for entertainers who will bring in even more fans. She said they still have a few areas that need a bit of tweaking, but overall were very happy with how things ran this year.
“We have amazing sponsors and volunteers that help us out year after year — we couldn’t do it without them,” said Biemans. “We always look forward to the next year — it’s a reunion — once a year a group of people get together to visit, have a few drinks, listen to some amazing music, and raise money for a great cause. Can’t ask for anything better than that.”

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Ryan Dahlman

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