Gagetown, N.B., celebrates surviving the spring flood with 'free party'

Three months after the worst flood in recent memory, the Village of Gagetown, N.B., celebrated its businesses finally reopening.

Some business owners in Gagetown still dealing with the aftermath of spring flood hope festival boosts economy

Five bands played from noon to midnight at the High and Dry Festival at the Village of Gagetown. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

Three months after the worst flood in recent memory, the Village of Gagetown, N.B., celebrated its businesses finally reopening.

On Sunday dozens of families were greeted by guitars and colourful balloon columns at the Gagetown Farmers' Market as part of the High and Dry festival.

The idea, said festival coordinator Paul Mennier, came six weeks earlier.

"Everybody was still kind of reeling from the flood. Our businesses had taken a big big hit and we thought what can we do to bring people into the village, spend money in our shops and boutiques or restaurants?" he said.

He said the answer was "a free party."

The High and Dry Festival was staffed mostly with community volunteers, some of whom were personally affected by the spring floods. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

Some people have already forgotten about the St. John River overflowing its banks early May, taking away cottages and destroying businesses. But what is a distant memory to some is a to-this-day reality for people of Gagetown, Mennier said.

"People even in the village, after the waters went down, didn't realize the extent of the damage," he said.

He said one business owner had a $20,000 electrical bill, while the local pub and marina owner had hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

"The other shops couldn't open for three weeks. When you're a small business, that's big," he said.

People who stayed late were treated to a whole roasted pig. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

Bands played from noon to midnight, and the celebration ended in fireworks. The local fire department barbecued hot dogs and burgers, and for the people who wanted to wait, there was a whole pig roasting in a big oven by the festival tents.

The marina

Nancy MacQuade Webb, is the owner of the Old Boot Pub and the marina. She was running the beer tent on Sunday, which had shade and cold drinks and was the most popular spot.

She said she just got fuel service running in the marina on Friday, which is lucky since there were so many boaters attending the festival.

Nancy MacQuade Webb, the owner of the Old Boot Pub and the marina, was running the beer tent at the festival. She says it's been financially difficult to recoup the property damage on her business since the flood, but hopes the festival will bring more people to the village. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

She said the celebration for her was well deserved.

"I cannot convey how much agony and anguish and tears and borrowing money from anybody I could just to try and get some of this stuff back up and running again. Yeah for me personally it's huge, huge," she said.

To support

Marie Smith said she was here to support everyone who has been affected by the flood. While her home was safe from the floodwaters, her grandson's wasn't.

"My grandson was flooded," she said. "His children were away from their home for three weeks."

She said she was attending the market and listening to the music, and will go to shops to support the village.

Smith said her grandson is volunteering at the festival, and is back in his home and trying to recoup the losses of property.

Sponsorships and empathy

Mennier said the festival is funded by corporate sponsorship from small New Brunswick companies to larger regional ones.

"I think business people understand when other business people are hurting," he said. "I think there was a fair amount of empathy within the business community."

A canned goods stand at the Gagetown Farmers' Market (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

Aside from the economic boost this festival will have, he said he hopes it will "lift people's spirit."

"This is also a celebration of the resilience of the river people."