Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer Festival Checklist

Edmonton is known as a festival city, especially because of the concentration of major summer festivals that take place starting in late June through August. I try to make it to as many as I can, as they are fun, involve a lot of things I enjoy such as art and music, and are a great way to enjoy the city in the summer. Here is a rundown of what I did on my summer vacation (so to speak):

The Works Art and Design Festival: This year's festival was special for me, because my photographs (and one poem) were included in two exhibits (Expressions of Hunger at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts and Diversity 2010, the annual members' show for the Visual Arts Alberta Association). The tribute to Gilbert Bouchard was especially moving. Photos

Edmonton International Street Performers Festival: I spent more time here than I have for several years. Most of the acts I saw were jugglers and clowns and geared towards a younger audience, but fun nonetheless. Photos

Taste of Edmonton: Although most of the restaurants are the same year after year, I always find something new to try. I found the portions to be bigger than in the past and the festival has gone environmentally friendly. Photos and more photos

Heritage Festival: Probably my favourite of all of the festivals, I try to go at least twice during the weekend. I love ethnic food, music, and dance, so I am literally in my element. This year, some of the highlights for me was delicious food from Afghanistan and Ethiopia and spending quality time at the Latin American pavilions. Photos

Edmonton Folk Music Festival: I grew up on folk music and having our own folk festival is something that makes Edmonton world-class. Not every city has one, and certainly not at the high level of ours. This year, I was excited to see Zachary Richard in concert, who is one of my favourite musicians from the Francophone world. I also had a religious experience seeing Melanie, one of the Woodstock performers, sing her classic "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)". To read reviews of these and other specific performances, check out Inside World Music, my World Music blog. Photos

Fringe International Theatre Festival: More street performers and food - I used to just go to wander the grounds around Gazebo Park. This year, I went to three plays. "The Big Oops" was about a children's entertainer who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and explores how she and her partner make decision on what to do. The play was presented like a children's television program, complete with catch phrases and musical cues. "War and Therapy" was written by Paula Caplan, who got in touch with me personally prior to her arrival in Edmonton. She was looking to get the word out about her play to Edmonton's peace community. Based on her own experiences as a therapist, the play explores the enduring trauma of soldiers returning from war. It was short, but powerful, and included a short discussion period at the end. Finally, "Hair" was at the New City Suburbs, a BYOV venue, and was incredible. The cast, many of whom are local theatre students, really nailed the music - which was performed by a live band. It was two hours of antiwar, hippy goodness. Photos

The city also has a number of community festivals that often feature art, music, food, and cultural displays. They are often worth visiting just as much as Churchill Square or Whyte Avenue. I am talking about Heart of the City, Eastwood Festival, East Meets West, and the Kaleido Family Arts Festival.

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