How many festivals do you need to host before you can claim to be your country’s “festival city?” Ten? 20? More? Whatever the official number is, Edmonton has hit it and then some as “Canada’s Festival City.” The official list numbers in the 30s, the actual list pushes 70. During most of the year, you can pick any month and find at least three festivals. During the summer months, you can pick pretty much any day and find something going on.
Being a festival city is about more than just numbers. There has to be a feel about your town that it’s a place where everybody’s welcome. There has to be a certain sense of fun that permeates the place. Edmonton has all of that as well. One thing that impressed us when we were able to attend some festivals during our visit was that there was a place for everybody at the festivals. Young and old, singles and families, everybody seems to find a way to hang out together. To hear more about how much we enjoyed it, listen to the Edmonton Episode of the Travel Brigade Radio Show.
A full list of the official festivals is available by clicking here. Since there are so many, here are a few of the highlights.
Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival – January:
Think of something that’s fun to do in the snow, and you can find it on Alberta Ave. Ice and snow carving, skating, curling, street hockey and even “Deep Freezer Races” – a large freezer set on skis that people sit in and race down a hill on.
Global Visions Film Festival – early March:
Canada’s longest running documentary film festival celebrated its 30th birthday in 2012. The four-day festival operates with an overall theme that we are all interdependent citizens of a global village.
International Children’s Festival – late May, early June:
Originally launched in the downtown area over 30 years ago, this gathering focusing on children’s theatre is now held in the small, historic community of St. Albert. Performers from across the globe come to perform on five indoor and outdoor stages over five days.
Servus Heritage Festival – early August:
This festival takes over an entire city park as every national, ethnic or cultural group that has found a home in Edmonton puts up a pavilion highlighting its history, arts, clothing and, best of fall, food! There are an astonishing 62 pavilions representing 85 different cultures, including those from Africa, Asia and South America.
Edmonton Folk Music Festival – mid August:
This would qualify as one of the top music festivals based on its lineup alone as top performers take to multiple stages over the course of four days of concerts. What really puts it over the top as a music experience is that the main stage sits at the bottom of a grass hill. Audience members bring blankets and sit on the hill in the pleasant summer evening air and get a view not only of the stage, but across the river and onto the downtown skyline of the city.
Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival – late August:
This celebration of “Fringe” has been going strong for 30 years, brings half a million people to Edmonton, and has helped turn the Old Strathcona neighborhood into a fun and thriving arts district. The 10-day street festival highlighted by theatre people experimenting with entertainment has become the model for fringe festivals around the globe.
Edmonton International Film Festival – late September, early October:
Now in it’s 26th year, the EIFF has been a place where directors such as John Waters, Werner Herzog and Norman Jewison have premiered new work. Entries from all over the world are on the roster.
Edmonton Comedy Festival – mid October:
Two dozen top stand-up comedians from across North America come to Alberta to do shows on a six different stages. The 2012 lineup includes Jay Mohr. Whatever the season, whatever your interest, you’ll find that Edmonton has a festival that’s right up your alley.