10 Edmonton Festivals You Probably Haven’t Heard Of (But Should Go to Anyways) | By Breanna Mroczek

I think it would be safe to say that pretty much everyone in the city has heard of the Fringe Festival, Taste of Edmonton, and the International Street Performers Festival — just to name a few of the annual events that contribute to Edmonton’s “Festival City” moniker. While the major festivals are inarguably awesome and vibrant fixtures of the city’s summer landscape, there are so many more festivals to explore and discover. Edmonton isn’t Deadmonton. It is Festival City.

So here are a few less-hyped festivals that you might not have heard of, but should definitely check out this season. I promise that, despite their under-the-radar presence, they’re not just for hipsters — these festivals deserve to be well attended! And, thanks to more grant distribution from the Edmonton Arts Council, they’ll be bigger and better than ever in 2013!

1. Rainmaker Rodeo | May 24 – 26 | www.rainmaker.ab.ca

This spring festival is basically like K-Days, except it’s in St. Albert. So if you can’t wait to indulge in sugary mini donuts and cotton candy, scream aboard topsy-turvy ride-like contraptions on the Midway, and hit up the beer gardens before an evening concert and fireworks show —never fear! You’ll find all your summer festival favourites here. Of course, it also hosts the largest non-professional rodeo in Canada — catch the thrill of bullfighters, steer-wrestlers, and more in action!

2. Heart of the City Festival | June 1 – 2 | www.heartcityfest.com

This multi-disciplinary arts festival features performances, merchant tents, activities and displays, with a focus on accessibility and relevance to inner city residents. There is a huge focus on cultivating and promoting the talents of local musicians, and local artists will host workshops to engage others in the art and music scene. Plus, all events are free and family-friendly.

3. Edmonton Craft Beer Festival  | June 14 – 15 | edmontoncraftbeerfest.com

The inaugural year of this festival is already setting expectations high; there has been so much buzz about the festival that breweries from around the world have flocked to get a spot here. Representing more than 300 types of beer from over 110 international breweries, Edmonton Craft Beer Festival is now the largest beer festival in all of Canada outside of Toronto. If you don’t think you like beer, come here to learn more about the different properties and ingredients characteristic of the many, many styles of beer at a Brewmaster Seminar, then try some samples to decide for yourself which you like the best. Still not convinced? Learn about how to pair beer with food, how to use the beverage in cooking, or simply sample some of the other liquors, spirits, and food served up here.

4. TedxEdmonton 2013 | June 15 | www.tedxedmonton.com/2013

You know all those YouTube videos of famous or even not-so-famous people giving really brief yet inspiring lectures, the kind that make you want to rethink your life — or at least jot down some quotes to use in your Facebook status? They’re called TED Talks, and while the official conference takes place in California, it has spawned numerous local versions called TEDx Talks — and Edmonton has its own version! This year, the conference features a diverse, interdisciplinary group of presenters — and I do mean diverse! What can you possibly have to learn from a children’s singer, a Cirque du Soleil gymnast,  and a Cornell graduate who’s worked for Bill Gates? Exactly. Stepping outside of your comfort zone will expose you to unfamiliar, unexpected sources to learn about contemporary, relevant topics as each speaker explores “The Future of…” in their relevant fields.

5. Edmonton Turkish Festival | June 22 – 23 | www.edmontonturkishfestival.com/

Held in Old Strathcona in June, this weekend celebration of Turkish culture includes lively displays of dance, food, crafts, music, games, and more. This event is free and promises to be lots of fun — as much as it’s a celebration of one culture, it’s also an opportunity to explore and discover attractive customs, activities, foods, and routines that you may be unfamiliar with. Don’t pass up the opportunity to try Turkish cotton candy —a delightfully sugary, buttery treat — or watch a water marbling demonstration to see how to create traditional Ebru art.

6. The Found Festival | June 27 – 30 | www.commongroundarts.ca/found-festival

The Common Ground Arts Society — a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of emerging local artists — facilitates the creation of ten different site-specific works in and around Old Strathcona. Whether you think you know the Old Strathcona district or you’ve never visited (in that case, WHY NOT, may I ask? Go now!), this interactive festival will have you discover something new about this beloved local neighbourhood. Performances will take you throughout Old Strathcona to see the production of “art”, which takes on many forms — dance, theatre, instillation pieces, etc., in the most unexpected of places. Indeed, the art will be “found” and the discoveries to be made are intriguing!

7. Avenue Goes to the Dogs | July 13 – 14 | www.facebook.com/AvenueGoesToTheDogs

Head out with your dog(s) in tow to the paw-ty that celebrates the canine citizens in Edmonton! Lots of events for everyone, whether of the two or four-legged variety: music, workshops, games, vendor market, activities, and even opportunities for dog adoptions.

8. Art Walk | July 12 – 14 | Whyte Ave., Old Strathcona | art-walk.ca

Every summer, the bustling streets of Whyte Ave are transformed into an oversized working art studio and gallery during Art Walk. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the artistic process as you encounter local artists creating their work, while getting to chat with them about their inspiration and processes. A variety of mediums, genres and levels of experience are represented throughout this festival — artists as young as nine have set up exhibits, and artists have showcased everything from photography to oil paintings. There’s no better event to see the streets of Whyte Ave. come alive with creativity!

9. Interstellar Rodeo | July 26 – 28 | interstellarrodeo.com

Despite the name, you won’t find many cowboy hats or bull-riders here! Now in its second year, this music festival brings together talented artists from Six Shooter record label for performances and song-writing sessions. This year, fans will recognize headliners Alabama Shakes and Serena Ryder (you know you still have “Stompa” stuck in your head), hometown favourites Shout Out Out Out Out, and a myriad of other up-and-coming, exceptionally talented artists. If good music wasn’t enough to entice you to get out to this festival, get this: the festival organizers suggest wine pairings to go with each performance —which will be available alongside other drinks in the beer gardens — so you can have your music and drink it, too!

10. TALES Storytelling Festival | September 1 – 2 | www.ecn.ab.ca/~tales

With workshops for and performances by storytellers of all skill levels, this event focuses on the art of narrative and the charm of spoken word in a celebration of literature. A lost art form? Nah. Discover how storytelling remains relevant in contemporary literature, media, and communication.

CC photograph courtesy of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation on Flickr. 

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  • Elizabeth

    This is a great article- thanks! I love the diversity of festivals you’ve featured.

    • Breanna

      Thanks, Elizabeth! I think diversity is what makes Edmonton so engaging; there’s something for everyone, and at the same time everyone can try something (new). Thanks for reading! Hope you can make it out to a few festivals.

  • Karen

    Awesome… please keep writing articles like this for people like me, who have no idea what’s going on in their city!