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Illustration by Tricia Lim Photo courtesy International Ave BRZ and Persuasion Photography

Time of the season: Calgary’s summer festivals

By Troy Hasselman, April 23 2019 —

The grass is turning greener, the days are getting longer and the patios are starting to fill — all sure signs that Calgary’s best season is approaching. Festival season is set for the coming months with events around the city covering whatever your interests may be.

Animal lovers have Pet-A-Palooza on July 27–28 at Eau Claire with dog-themed games and activities on both days. Craft beer enthusiasts can attend the Calgary International Beer Fest on May 3–4 at the BMO Centre, which will showcase 700 beers from over 40 countries. Music lovers have plenty of options with the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival on June 19–23 and the Calgary Folk Music Festival from July 25–28. The Lilac Festival returns as well to take over Fourth Street in the Beltline on June 2.

These festivals and countless others will take place in the coming months. The Gauntlet spoke to organizers from two festivals taking place this summer for information about what their events will look like this year.

Taste of Calgary:

Taste of Calgary takes place from Aug. 8–11 at the Eau Claire Festival Plaza near the Eau Claire Market. Guests will exchange their money for taste dollars — the festival’s food-based currency — and sample foods from around the world prepared by Calgary’s best restaurants, caterers and food trucks. The festival also includes a licensed area that showcases breweries and distilleries, along with two stages featuring entertainment from local artists.

“The festival’s been running for 21 years and has grown and expanded as Calgary’s restaurants scene has grown,” says Taste of Calgary organizer Jennifer Rempel. “In the last three or four years, restaurants in Calgary have been named as some of the top restaurants in Canada and restaurateurs are having this resurgence of Calgary becoming a foodie city. Our festival has really grown and exploded in the last few years. It’s like we have a fresh breath, a new audience and market.”

The festival is looking to be even bigger this year compared to years past, with new spaces added for food and the brewery and distillery stations also growing considerably for this year’s edition of the festival.

“We’ve expanded our footprint slightly,” Rempel says. “We’ve added 12 additional restaurant spaces so there’s more to choose from. We’ve also doubled up on the brewery and distillery sampling because there are just so many choices in Calgary now. Five years ago, there weren’t very many microbreweries but now there’s just so many so we’re trying to give everybody an opportunity to participate.”

The entertainment options at the festival will as well be widereaching, with one stage for music and another that will have dancing from local artists and demonstrations from restaurants participating in the festival.

“We’ll have a stage that’s programmed fully for the four days. It’s inside our licensed area but the licensed area is family-friendly so anyone can come inside and enjoy. We also have mostly local entertainment and great bands from all sorts of genres. We have funk, big band, rock and some cover bands,” says Rempel.

Despite the local flavour of the festival, there will be a wide number of options available for festivalgoers to choose from.

“It’s all local but it’s also food from around the world. It’s not just Canadian,” says Rempel. “We have food options from Vietnamese to Thai to Mexican to Venezuelan to Caribbean — all sorts of different tastes. You can walk around and try something you haven’t had before.”

The lineup of vendors and entertainers has yet to be announced for Taste of Calgary. To keep up with the festival, visit their website at tasteofcalgary.com

East Town Get Down:

The East Town Get Down will take place on May 25 across eight blocks and multiple venues on our city’s International Avenue. The festival will include over 80 different bands, both local and international, playing at restaurants, bars and even bowling alleys in the area.

“We have interesting acts this year, like Canadian metal legends Anvil. We have Juno-winning metal act Striker, we have hip-hop artists as well,” says International Avenue BRZ executive director Alison Karim-McSwiney. “We have Rae Spoon, Windigo, The Wet Secrets and all sorts of interesting bands like that.”

Aside from the lineup, some interesting and offbeat venues will be included in the East Town Get Down to add to the unique flavour of the festival.

“We have Pacific Hut, which is a really fabulous Filipino restaurant,” Karim-McSwiney says. “We have our bowling alley, Paradise Lanes, which has been around for well over 50 years so you can go bowling and also see bands play. We also have Salsa, which is a Mexican restaurant and a number of different venues and restaurants and juice bars.”

An added benefit of playing in restaurants and juice bars is that the majority of the venues will be open to people of all ages.

“We have the Border Crossing, which is 18-plus and Portico is 18-plus as well,” Karim-McSwiney says. “But most are all-ages.”

Organizers also hope that this event will get people into the area and show them the changes that have taken place in recent years with infrastructure improvements and public art embodying this.

“The festival itself is great in getting people to the east part of town. Once they get here, I think people will notice a lot of the work that’s been happening over the last 25 years here,” she says. “The city has recently put in $176 million in infrastructure improvements, which creates beautiful walking sidewalks, lot of lighting and a lot of art shown on the avenue. The improvement of the area has taken over 20 years to do.”

Tickets for the event are $40. For more information about the East Town Get Down lineup and to buy tickets, visit easttowngetdown.ca.

These are just a few among the many festivals taking place across the city over the summer. Keep your eyes peeled for any festivals lining up with your interests.



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