The Trent Rail Jam event that began in 2009 and ran each year until 2013 will not be taking place this year, largely because it is not currently financially viable.
This was determined by a committee that has been meeting throughout last semester and into January to discuss the possibility of re-establishing the event after its cancellation last year.
Last year, the event consisting of a ski and snowboard terrain park with judged competitions and a beer tent was scheduled to be held on February 8. On February 1, the Trent Riverside Rail Jam Facebook account posted on the event page that the event was cancelled due to unforeseen complications.
In the comments, both the event coordinator and a representative of the Gzowski College Cabinet posted to explain that the decision had to do with Gzowski College concerns about unpaid expenses they would have to absorb.
This year, discussions revolved around how to bring the event back. “I was on the Rail Jam committee, which met quite extensively last semester and into January, trying to see if it was viable,” said TCSA President Braden Freer. “Committee members included someone from the Trent Ski and Board Club, a few Gzowski Cabinet members, myself as TCSA, a past Gzowski Cabinet member, members from the Gzowski college office, and an alumni who was involved in the event there.”
“This year was sort of a revival attempt,” said Gzowski Cabinet President, Carmen Meyette, who also sat on the committee. “It really was a group of people coming together and saying ‘can we revise it?’ ‘How do we recollect that knowledge now that there’s a year’s gap?’ We found a lot of obstacles.”
Freer agrees that there were lots of obstacles in the way. “Unfortunately it proved very difficult. A lot of community partners were indicating they did not want to work with Trent and Rail Jam this year because of the debacle of very, very last minute cancelling and mismanagement.”
Freer also indicates that there were communication problems, “so concerns around financial viability weren’t relayed until about a month before the event. At that time, everyone in the room sort of said there was no way to pull it together because there were promises made to community partners that couldn’t be kept. There were sponsorship agreements that no one really knew about, and there were staffing issues with it.”
It wasn’t only a fear of a repeat from last year that lead to the decision though. Freer said that Rail Jam has always been an event that struggled with finances. “There’s always been the issue of financial viability for Rail Jam. It does rely on alcohol sales in order to break even, and the trend has been declining alcohol sales.”
“Rail Jam takes about $10,000 to put on. To find anywhere near $10,000 student dollars or to subsidize any significant amount with sponsorship is an incredible task for anyone to take on,” said Meyette, adding that planning an event of this magnitude as a volunteer, simultaneously balancing school and potentially work, is by no means easy.
Meyette recognizes the appeal of the event and how closely it is tied to the school.
“It did start off as a business student project primarily,” she said adding that the event is “very much rooted in the student community, it’s really meant to add to student culture.”
She said she has mixed feelings about bringing the event back though, because of the tremendous amount of work that needs to be done now that it has not been in operation for a couple of years. “It’s nearing the point of being built from the ground up all over again,” she said.
She does encourage those who want the event to work towards bringing it back, though. “If there’s someone out there who reads this and just feels like they just have to make it happen, they can get in touch and I will pass on all of the tools and knowledge I have so that they can at least be as prepared as possible,” she said. Meyette can be reached at [email protected]