Bathurst's population swells for Hospitality Days
Northern city may host as many as 30,000 people during Hospital Days
Bathurst is experiencing a reversal of its declining population trend this week — at least temporarily.
The city of about 12,000 people has swelled to two or three times that size for Hospitality Days.
Wednesday marked the start of the 13th annual event, since the summer festival was revived in 2002.
In addition to concerts boasting names such as the Trews, picnics and a parade, new this year are hot air balloon rides above the city.
Organizers say they pulled out all the stops to make a homecoming worthwhile.
"Unfortunately, the jobs aren't keeping our youth here and I think our youth are going out west to work and starting their families out there," said organizing committee president Rickey Hondas.
The committee wants people to see the good in their community, he said.
"Most of us were born here and if we were not born here, we've moved here and lived here 30 years," he said.
Pauline Armstrong moved away once, briefly, for school, but she's always called Bathurst home.
Armstrong opened a takeout restaurant last week, just in time to welcome the first Hospitality visitors.
"Today, I seen a whole bunch of people that I see every year because they work out west, they work in Ontario, but they come home to Hospitality Days to see everybody," she said.
Despite the fact that restaurants in Western Canada are now selling East Coast favourites, such as donairs and poutine, Armstrong said she's offering something more authentic.
"Now the East Coast touches are out west and they come home to have the hospitality again," she said.