On the (Alberta) Avenue: Shop Smart and Avenue Goes to the Dogs

Though the city’s fabric is enriched by long-standing events like K-Days, Folk Fest and the Fringe Festival, I’m really attracted to less established festivals like Deep Freeze and Illuminite. Someday, these events might come to be regarded in the same light as the “big boys”, but for now, I love their grassroots nature, charm and inclusive feel.

Alberta Avenue has really been a pioneer in this front, with the aforementioned Deep Freeze and Kaleido both setting the bar high for other communities hoping to employ festivals as a catalyst to revitalize the neighbourhood.

A few weeks ago, we heard about a launch of Alberta Avenue’s latest retail campaign called “Shop Smart”. Building on the coalition behind “We Believe In 118”, the drive reminds consumers to avoid questionable retailers and to shop locally. They have also launched a petition that advocates for the creation of a by-law that will regulate the sale of weapons.

The launch took place on July 11, 2013 with a small street party on the corner of 118 Avenue and 87 Street. With food trucks and a passport for prizes activity (involving visiting businesses displaying the “Shop Smart” decal to collect stamps), we thought it would be a fun way to spend the evening.

Shop Smart

Shop Smart event

The timing, from 4:30-6:30pm, was curious, because it wouldn’t have given those that don’t live in the community much time to reach the event and participate. It also didn’t seem to be as organized as it could have been – one of the most prominent businesses featured on the passport, location-wise, was Handy Bakery. It wasn’t even open for the last part of the event.

That said, it was a good opportunity for us to finally visit businesses we’ve walked past dozens of times, but never had the excuse or time to check out.

Shop Smart

Wall of guitars at Mhyre’s Music

Some businesses took the launch more seriously than others, as a chance to positively engage with new customers. Wee Book Inn, for example, handed out free tote bags and offered an in-store discount.

Shop Smart

Mack at Wee Book Inn

Others, like Saffron’s Carribean Delight, seemed less than happy to be a part of the event. Granted, the server probably just felt overwhelmed, but the lack of welcome or even a smile didn’t make me eager to return.

The event was also an opportunity for us to try S*wich for the first time. S*wich is fairly new to the food truck scene, but sets itself apart in the sandwich category by baking its own bread. They also feature popsicles and ice cream sandwiches from THIS Place (affiliated with the truck). Mack and I are happy to say that the sandwiches do live up to its reputation, especially the bread!

S*wich

Montreal smoked meat sandwich

S*wich

Mack with a smoked turkey club

In the end, the prize we earned from collecting the minimum ten stamps was another tote bag with some information about the Avenue’s businesses and a few coupons. I’m not sure what we expected, but it was a fitting souvenir for the evening.

The following Sunday, we returned to the neighbourhood for Avenue Goes to the Dogs, an annual celebration of dogs. The festival, at Eastwood Park, began as a way for community members to meet one another, as many residents have dogs. Though we don’t have a dog ourselves (living in a pet-free building doesn’t help matters), we love dogs!

Avenue Goes to the Dogs 2013

We ran into Pancakes, The Act’s loveable mascot

The festival lucked out with the weather – early morning showers gave way to overcast but dry skies. The crowds were also modest at the start of the festival (I was reminded of the rabid hordes at Toronto’s Woofstock earlier this year), but everyone had such genuine love for their pets that it more than made up for numbers.

Avenue Goes to the Dogs 2013

Dog meet-up!

The real draw of the festival for me was the dachshund races. I missed the same kind of event at Woofstock, so this was a chance for me to watch this at home! There was a solid turnout of more than a dozen dachshunds and other long-bodied dogs, including Pancakes. Even Mack got in on the action, volunteering to hold Pancakes at the starting line.

Avenue Goes to the Dogs 2013

Ready, set…

Avenue Goes to the Dogs 2013

Go!

It really was the cutest thing, even if some of the dogs were less than cooperative!

See Spot run

Pancakes really had a bit of an unfair advantage due to her size, but some of the little ones gave her a run for her money, including the absolutely adorable Ellie, an 18 month old dachshund.

Avenue Goes to the Dogs 2013

Ellie

Avenue Goes to the Dogs was much less commercial in nature than Woofstock, and felt very community and information-oriented, with displays that included City pet licensing requirements, the Edmonton Police K-9 Unit, and pet adoption societies.

Avenue Goes to the Dogs 2013

Adopt me!

We had a great time, even sans dog. Kudos to the organizers for a great job, and for giving us another reason to visit the Avenue.

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