Blink: Urban Picnic

I would say the first event in our Blink series of pop-up dinners came together relatively quickly, from conception to reality (helped greatly, of course, by the staff of Century Hospitality Group). The notion of transforming a pedway into a restaurant felt inspired, almost spontaneous. This is especially true when contrasted with the location of our second Blink event.

For a few years now, Mack and I have been looking longingly at a site at Louise McKinney Park, wondering if it would be possible to program the space. It seemed like the ideal location – accessible, with riverfront views. Though in recent years there have been more efforts to animate the park as a whole (That’s Edmonton For You and Hip Hop in the Park come to mind, besides the long-standing Dragon Boat Festival), it’s still a drop in the bucket.

Louise McKinney Riverfront Park
Louise McKinney Park

The addition of washrooms and a cafe at the base of the building haven’t seemed to help either – on most days passing through in the afternoon or evening, one would be hard pressed to find many people using the trails, let alone lingering. We often hear it said that the best feature of Edmonton is our extensive river valley – but if no one is actually out enjoying it, what use is it?

Louise McKinney Riverfront Park
Trails

One argument that has been made is that there should be more reasons for people to visit Louise McKinney. The cafe in the River Valley Adventure Co. is a good start, so people taking a stroll can stop in for a coffee or ice cream along the way, but it’s clearly not enough. Opening up the riverfront to more commercial development doesn’t mean letting it go forward unchecked, but a few more amenities such as a local restaurant with patio seating, would help make our greatest attraction a more user-friendly one. For us, Blink provided us with the ideal medium to explore this idea further – what would a river valley restaurant look like?

What: Blink: Urban Picnic!
When: August 26, 2012
Time: Cocktails from 5-5:30pm, dinner from 5:30-7:30pm
Where: 9735 Grierson Hill

But like our previous event, Mack and I aren’t in this alone. We’re actually quite fortunate in that we’ve again found some wonderful partners to work with.

The biggest challenge was to find a way to prepare the food in the middle of the park. With the advent of food trucks in our city, this was easily solved. We knew that Kara and Nevin of Drift had been wanting to branch out with meals beyond sandwiches, and with their philosophy of promoting local producers, the fit was perfect. With Drift on as a partner, Blink: Urban Picnic was born. We can’t take credit for the name – it was all Kara’s idea, wanting to take advantage of the al fresco nature of the event, under a family-style casual dinner theme. Check out the menu they’ve developed here.

Kara and Nevin also introduced us to the owners of River Valley Adventure Co., who have also jumped on board. They have seen first hand how some development can help introduce folks to our natural assets, but acknowledge that more can be done. They will be offering coffee and tea to diners at the end of the night, as well as an opportunity to try out a Segway!

Louise McKinney Park Cafe
Inside River Valley Adventure Co.

Another of our obstacles was finding the resources to cover all of the materials we would need to set up a pop-up restaurant. We wanted to keep the ticket price as low as possible, and we were only able to do this when the Shaw Conference Centre stepped in. They have been not only a generous, but gracious sponsor, and in this case, the perfect fit. In many ways, the Shaw is the gateway to the river valley – either by folks traversing its outdoor staircase to reach the valley below (as we do on our walks), or by taking the escalator down for similar access. They’ve even come up with a way for diners to experience this latter path in a novel way – by enjoying a cocktail along the way! We are asking that diners enter the site through the main doors of the Shaw Conference Centre off Jasper Avenue. There, they will each receive a champagne flute to drink while riding down to reach Louise McKinney. They have dubbed this an “escalator cocktail” – no doubt this will be the first of its kind in Edmonton!

Shaw Conference Centre
Shaw Conference Centre

Tickets for Blink: Urban Picnic are $50, and will go on sale at 9am on August 20, 2012. We hope you consider joining us for this pop-up dinner!

3 thoughts on “Blink: Urban Picnic

  1. Great idea, Sharon! I agree that Louise McKinney is a little-known wonder – it has been getting better and better over the past few years. As a matter of fact, I will be having my wedding ceremony there in just 3 weeks. Part of the reason we chose it is to force some of our less downtown-friendly loved ones to come and see for themselves how great we have it in the core.
    I did hear that they might be tearing out the wooden footbridge that connects the park to the south side of the river – something about replacing it with an LRT bridge? Have you heard anything about that?

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