Summer is officially here and in Edmonton that means it's festival season. We are known as Festival City for good reason and although there are a growing number of winter festivals it's summertime that really shines.
Now this is in no way a complete list of all the happenings around town but I've put together a few that are on my must-do list this year.
I'm hardly a huge Shakespeare fan but spending a sunny (hopefully) evening sitting in Hawrelak Park and watching some theater sounds like a pretty darn good time to me. The festival kicked off yesterday (June 21st) and performances will run right through until July 17th (everyday of the week but Mondays). Tickets are available from Tix on the Square or you can just buy walk-up tickets at the event. There's two different show options, Romeo & Juliet or Love's Labour's Lost. I'm leaning towards Love's Labour's Lost because I've never seen or read it but Romeo & Juliet is a classic...decisions, decisions!
The Works Art & Design Festival
Outdoors and FREE, those are the two big selling features of The Works Festival for me. And you get to see some pretty fantastic art displays while you're at it. The Works sets up shop around downtown Edmonton from June 23rd until July 5th and this year there will be 55 exhibits featured at 29 different venues. Find a nice day and head downtown to stroll around and check out the creations. There is also a stage set-up in Churchill Square that will play host to a variety of musicians everyday of the festival from 12pm to 9:30pm.
Street Performers Festival
This is always a fun one for all ages. From July 8th to 17th Churchill Square will be taken over by a bunch of street performers from all over the world to delight the crowds with their ridiculous antics. Performances will run from 11:30am to 11pm everyday and each night ends off with a group show at 10pm. Quick tip, I've always found the group shows to be a little lame so I recommend heading there earlier to catch some of the artists performing their full sets. The event is free to attend but make sure to bring along some cash to pay your dues at the end of each performance you watch.
Taste of Edmonton
My all-time favourite Edmonton festival that I make sure to go to (usually a couple of times) every year...because food! Taste of Edmonton is another festival that will take over Churchill Square (July 21st to 30th) but this time you'll be surrounded by food, lots and lots of food. Local restaurants set-up tents and you can purchase small sampler dishes of some of their most popular items. What could be better than an endless variety of food! You have to buy tickets to make payment quick and easy and if you act now you can buy advance tickets at a 20% discount. This is definitely the way to go as it will not only save you money but you'll get to skip the line-up for tickets which tends to be the longest. Another tip, try to avoid normal meal-times. Lunch hour during the week and anytime at dinner is always the craziest but if you aim to go mid-afternoon its usually a lot quieter so you can get your eat on faster.
This year K-Days should be bigger and better than ever as they have added a second stage so you'll get double the performances...which are kind of the best part. This year you'll be able to catch shows from artists such as the X-Ambassadors, Matthew Good, Rachel Platten, Shawn Hook, Moist and many others. I'm planning to head over on opening night to catch the X-Ambassadors! All the shows are included in the price of admission so you'll also be able to check out the midway rides, carnival games and food. Rides before loading up on deep fried food though ok? Apparently this year they have deep fried coffee...not sure how that works but I'm game. K-Days runs at pretty much the same time as Taste of Edmonton, July 22nd to the 31st this year and if you want to catch the kick-off parade it will be held downtown the morning of the 22nd.
Another great food festival! Ok, there's culture too but the main reason to go to the Heritage Festival is for the food (at least for me). It always runs over the August long weekend (July 30th to August 1st) and fills Hawrelak Park with the smells, sounds and sights of different cultures from all over the world. You'll buy tickets for food/drink items but there will also be lots of other stuff for sale so bring your wallet. You can buy tickets in advance from Tix on the Square, Save-on-Foods or Servus Credit Union locations starting July 1st but there's no discount for advance tickets, might save you a line-up though. Park and ride is the way to go as there is NO parking available at Hawrelak during the event and if you want to avoid the biggest crowds I suggest going right when it opens in the morning.
Street performers, street food, and all the plays you could ever dream up (and some you couldn't...) The Fringe will take over Edmonton again August 11th to 21st in Old Strathcona. The play venues are kind of all over the place but the main festival grounds are all around the Arts Barns along 83 Ave between 104 Street and Gateway Blvd. The shows (there's a ton) can be really hit or miss so I like to hold off a couple of days until there's some reviews out to help narrow down your options. The Edmonton Journal and Vue Weekly are always good resources for reviews. The last few years the Faculte Saint Jean has been used as a venue for a few plays and it's one of the easiest and most accessible venues to get to. There's good (free) parking and it's air conditioned! If you're an avid Fringer you'll know that air conditioning is a life-saver if the weather is hot.
Symphony Under the Sky
Similar to Freewill Shakespeare but this time featuring the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra playing at Hawrelak Park. Shows will run for four nights between August 25th and August 28th. All the shows are different and include a Simon Garfunkel feature or Hollywood Favourites. Tickets are available online now and you can choose between reserved seating or bringing your own blanket and going with general admission grass seating.