Edmonton: Free to Discover

I have the privilege of compiling a monthly calendar of events for my clients at work, in the hopes of encouraging them to explore and enjoy what the city has to offer. Since undertaking this initiative over a year ago, I must admit to the secondary benefit of becoming quite well-informed about economical and unique happenings in Edmonton. Thus, I am now quite dismayed when I encounter anyone who claims that “There is nothing to do in Edmonton.” At least, nothing related to either West Edmonton Mall or Whyte Avenue nightlife.

September, besides being the time of year that induces groans of children and teens everywhere, will also see the occurrence of four distinct, growing festivals:

  • Only in its second year, and taking place about a month before the better known Lit Fest, the Edmonton Poetry Festival is offering a plethora of events, many free, from readings, to poetry slams to a hip-hop night.
  • Edmonton Fashion Week runs from September 24-28, this year moving its runway shows from the south side Planet Ze Design to the unbridled space of Churchill Square. Besides being great for the current movement towards the publicity and revitalization of the downtown core, it also allows the festival itself increased exposure to new crowds. While the runway shows are not free, the opening night gala, featuring displays and a preview showcase, is open at no cost to the public (though attendees are encouraged to bring a non-perishable donation to the food bank).
  • The revamped Edmonton International Film Festival starts on September 28. Although it’s a shame the filmed-in-Alberta Assassination of Jesse James isn’t being screened, the matinee documentary series can be seen for $5 a pop.
  • Revitalization of a different sort is being celebrated in the form of the second annual Arts on the Ave Kaleido Festival. Nurturing the artistic in the ill-famed Alberta Avenue district, the festival is hosting a number of free performances and street entertainment (and for those who missed the five-star Fringe favorites Water and Homeless, you’ll get the chance to see them on stage for a bargain $5 a ticket).

I always wonder what it would have been like to grow with the Fringe, now just having finished its twenty-sixth consecutive run. With these four festivals still in their relative stages of infancy, perhaps one day you can look back and know that you were there for the beginning.

Other notable free activities during the month of September:

  • City Farm, which aims to expose the public to cultivation and animal care techniques, is holding its Harvest Festival on September 15. Admission by donation.
  • Free admission week at Kinsmen Sports Centre runs from September 22-30.
  • Two fun, cheeky exhibits at the Art Gallery of Alberta, including pieces by Andy Warhol start later this month. Admission into the temporary space at Enterprise Square is free from 4-8pm on Thursdays.
  • The City of Edmonton’s celebration of recreation, Free Admission Day, offers no cost entry to all city-owned facilities on September 30, including the perennially-popular and family-friendly Fort Edmonton Park, Valley Zoo, and Muttart Conservatory, as well as recreation centres and arenas.

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