Support fire evacuees from the Northwest Territories while having a blast in Borden Park
By Cory Schachtel | August 30, 2023
The Northwest Territories, like much of western Canada, have had a horrible summer of fires.
“When you have these fires that go these incredible distances, like the one in [the town of] Enterprise that went 50 kilometres in a day, there’s nothing stopping them.” Dennis Bevington is a former NWT Member of Parliament and for nine years was the mayor of Forth Smith which, along with Yellowknife and Hay River, is one of the communities most affected by the fires. Thousands of evacuees, including Bevington, have temporarily relocated to Edmonton.
“The people up north, just as in the rest of the country, live from paycheque to paycheque. And the vulnerability of people is especially real when they have to pick up and go with little warning. Even myself — this never happened to me before, so I didn’t fill a huge suitcase full of clothing, I didn’t anticipate being away from home for up to a month. So it’s very difficult for evacuees right now.”
Now, evacuees are uncertain but safe. And Bevington says they are incredibly “touched” by the generosity shown by Edmontonians. But they don’t want to just sit around, and they have great music to share. “I call the Northwest Territories the ‘World’s largest small town,’ because we all know each other from different communities and there’s a very active music scene.”
It’s a scene Bevington’s son Nick is very familiar with, even having moved to Edmonton about eight years ago. He reached out to some NWT musical talent, including Juno-nominee Leela Gilday, Hot Club of Zama, Usual Suspects and State of the Art, as well as some Edmonton bands (TBA), food truck operators and purveyors of craft beers to create NWT Fest: A Benefit for Fire Evacuees, this Sunday (September 3) at Borden Park. Put on with help from Fort Smith’s Salt River First Nation, and Edmonton’s Offbeat Entertainment, the fest will help raise spirits and funds for evacuees through United Way.
It will take a long time for evacuees to return home and return to normal. But Bevington says a day of music and camaraderie will provide much-needed spiritual support for friends — who in some cases haven’t seen each other since fleeing their hometowns — and for Edmontonians to show just how much they can give. “Unfortunately, after Slave Lake and Fort McMurray, Albertans already know what this is all about. And in my experience, in my last two weeks here, when Edmontonians realize where you’re from, they’re immediately sympathetic, and talk and share things with you. So it’s been a very good experience in that regard. We think this will be really good for evacuees on another weekend away from home, and we think Edmontonians will enjoy it too.”
Prove Bevington right but buying tickets to NWT Fest, buying tickets for someone else to attend, or donating through United Way.