At the peak of summer solstice, there are more than 17 hours of daylight per day in Edmonton and twilight extends through the entire night. The long daylight hours of this sunny summer season bring locals and visitors out in droves to celebrate music, dance, visual arts, performing arts, sports, and film in the capital city — when Albertans party until the sun goes down, they mean business.
With more than 30 annual festivals, some of the largest of which occur during the summer months, Edmonton has a firm lock on its unofficial moniker of Canada’s Festival City.
In Edmonton, the summer festival season begins with the International Children’s Festival in late May and ends with the Dragonboat Festival and the Blues Festival in late August.
Here’s a little rundown of the signature summer festivals — just in time for the summer road trip season. It’s a good idea to buy tickets in advance if possible, as the best acts at many of these festivals sell out.
International Street Performers Festival (July 8-17)
The first festival of its kind in North America, over the past 27 years the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival has become one of the most popular festivals of the summer. The festival brings together more than 1,500 musicians, jugglers, acrobats, magicians, and comedy street artists from around the world all performing in and around Sir Winston Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton. It is a family-friendly festival with face painting, Kid’s World activities and “Be your own busker” workshops for younger visitors.
More info is available at www.edmontonstreetfest.com.
Capital EX (July 22-31)
The city’s longest-running summertime exhibition, Capital EX includes a parade, a midway, a casino, free entertainment, food vendors, and a nightly fireworks show. The 10-day carnival-style event takes place annually at Northlands.
More info is available at www.capitalex.ca.
Edmonton Indy (July 22-24)
Indy racing is relatively new to Edmonton, but this new event is becoming very popular with locals and visitors alike. Attendees get to see the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers up close — including Andretti, Castro-Neves, Franchitti, Kanaan, Patrick, Power and Tagliani.
Go once and you’ll have a new appreciation for life in the fast lane.
More info is available at http://www.edmontonindy.com/
Servus Heritage Festival (July 30-Aug. 1)
This free festival celebrates Canada’s multiculturalism by showcasing 85 cultures from around the world in 63 pavilions at Hawrelak Park, in Edmonton’s River Valley.
This festival has been in operation for more than 35 years and is incredibly popular with locals who enjoy sampling ethnic foods, watching creative performances, and purchasing crafts and artwork.
More info is available at www.heritage-festival.com.
Folk Festival (Aug. 4-7)
The Edmonton Folk Music Festival has been showcasing the best blue grass, celtic and blues gospel singers and songwriters in Edmonton’s Gallagher Park each summer for more than 30 years.
The festival is run by one staff member and 300 volunteers and is sponsored by many local businesses. This means that organizers can bring in world class acts from around the world while still managing to keep ticket prices low.
As the organizers say, it’s all about the music.
More info is available at edmontonfolkfest.org.
International Fringe Festival (Aug. 11-21)
The Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival is North America’s oldest and largest Fringe Theatre Festival and this year, the festival will celebrate its 30th birthday.
It is an unjuried, uncensored presentation of theatre that is performed in theatres, on playgrounds, in parks and even in skating rinks in the historic Old Strathcona District of Edmonton.
The 11-day event was originally inspired by the Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has stayed true to its roots — providing the opportunity for festival goers to choose between hundreds of performances of song, dance, comedy, drama and a mishmash of everything in between.
Fringers can also enjoy sampling food from various vendors, relaxing in the beer tent, or shopping at the souvenir shack.
For kids, there is the KidsFringe run by the Youth Troupe, a group of young people who perform, play games and read stories with kids of all ages.
More info is available at www.fringetheatreadventures.ca.
Labatt Blues Festival (Aug. 19-21)
This festival is three days of “Blues Heaven” at the Heritage Amphitheatre in Edmonton’s River Valley.
Considered to be one of the top events of its kind in Canada, the festival always features an eclectic group of bands and performers that pretty much cover the gamut when it comes to blues music.
This year’s lineup of talent includes Grammy Award winners alongside Blues Award winners and nominees. Headliners include The John Nemeth Soul Revue, Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band and Guitar Shorty.
More info is available at www.bluesinternationalltd.com.
The complete list
Edmonton celebrates year-round, with both large and small festivals in every calendar month. Regardless of when you choose to visit, chances are they will be able to take in a festival.
For a complete listing of all the city’s festivals, check out Edmonton Tourism’s festival calendar: www.edmonton.com/for-visitors/festival-calendar.aspx.
Jurassic Forest — one of the capital region’s newest attractions
If you have ever dreamed of walking amongst life-sized dinosaurs without the fear of becoming lunch for a hungry albertosaurus or T-rex, Jurassic forest is the place for you.
The 40-acre prehistoric nature preserve opened last July and features 21 animatronic dinosaurs in an old growth forest just outside Edmonton. There are two km of trails, a playground and an interactive learning centre onsite.
Admission is $14 for adults, $8 for children 3-13 or $10 for youth 13 to 17. A family admission for two adults and two children will cost $40.
For more information, visit www.jurassicforest.com.
Edmonton Attractions Pass — If you are planning to daytrip to the capital region this summer, the new Edmonton Attractions Pass could save you money. There are two types of passes: the Ultimate Pass gives the ticket-holder year-long access to 15 different attractions at a cost of $59.95, and the U-Pick Pass, a seven-day pass good for four attractions, priced at $29.95. Youth passes are available at a lower cost.
Participating attractions include: the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Valley Zoo, the Devonian Botanic Garden, the Leduc #1 Energy Discovery Centre, Fort Edmonton Park, the Muttart Conservatory, the Northlands neighborhood, the Old Strathcona neighborhood, the Telus World of Science, the West Edmonton Mall, the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, the Alberta legislature, the Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm, the Royal Alberta Museum, Capital EX (an annual 10-day festival of games and attractions held every July) and the Alberta Aviation Museum.
To find out more about the passes or to purchase one, visit www.edmontonattractions.com.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.