Valentine’s Day Disco Skate

On one of the most commercially-driven days in the year, it was great that the City of Edmonton was offering a free, family-friendly alternative. Their Valentine’s Day Disco Skate was scheduled a bit early, running from 4-7pm, but the time did allow for kids to fit in a visit right after school, and for couples to have dinner following the event.

Valentine's Day Disco Skate

City Hall

Mack and I headed over to City Hall after work. At dusk, the spotlights were getting to be more noticeable, but the disco music was certainly casting a net of attention – pedestrians wanted to see what all the fuss was about!

Valentine's Day Disco Skate

Beautiful night for an outdoor skate

Free skate and helmet rentals were offered, alongside bannock roasting. To add to the festivities, stilt-walkers danced around the rink, and costumed actors roamed the perimeter, handing out red carnations as they went.

Valentine's Day Disco Skate

Mack with our carnation

I am a tenuous skater at best, but Mack was patient with me, and we managed to make it around the rink several times (more than a few children raced circles around us).

Valentine's Day Disco Skate

Look Ma, I’m standing!

It was wonderful to see families, couples and friends enjoying themselves on and off the ice. Given the Winter Strategy would like to see more people taking advantage of the outdoors in the season of snow, I think a few more events like this would definitely be a step towards making that happen! Kudos to the organizers for a wonderful night.

All Year Round: the City Market at City Hall

It was an interesting day downtown today – as Mack and I walked towards City Hall this afternoon, we encountered the Occupy Edmonton demonstration in Churchill Square.

Occupy Edmonton

Occupy Edmonton

It was peaceful but spirited, with protesters carrying a wide variety of signs and costumed as everything from V to zombies.

With so much activity in the core, we figured it must be just as bustling inside City Hall, but that wasn’t the case. I loved the irony –  if even half of the protesters purchased something from a purveyor at the market, what kind of difference would that act make towards supporting small businesses and local economies? Anyway, that’s a different discussion for another day.

Occupy Edmonton

Protesters march

Unlike last year, when the City Market didn’t make the leap into City Hall on a regular basis until March, I was excited when it was announced that the transition from street to indoors would be immediate. With a forthcoming marketing campaign on ETS buses and LRT, this edition of the year-round City Market also seems like it will be better advertised. Still, approaching City Hall, one would be hard pressed to guess if anything was going on inside, let alone Edmonton’s oldest farmers’ market. I can imagine the politics that might be involved in proposing outdoor signage for the building, but it would definitely go a long way in raising the profile and visibility of the market.

City Market

An unmarked City Hall

Inside, there were about three dozen vendors. Having arrived around 1pm, we figured we missed the rush, but we were told that it had been fairly slow so far.

City Market

Quiet aisle

The set-up in the City Room was similar to the spring market, with vendors lining most of the first floor. We asked about the capacity of the space (given there are currently sixty vendors who have signed up to participate this fall and winter), and were told that they have the permission to expand to the second level if need be.

City Market

Kuhlmann’s and Doef’s had prime spaces

Apparently the marimba player (who would be familiar to City Market on 104 Street shoppers) had been performing earlier in the day, but had retired by the time we arrived. Unfortunately, there was no ambient music to fill the void that he left – hopefully the Market works on this next week as it felt a bit like a library beneath the pyramid.

City Market

Shoppers peruse fruit at Steve & Dan’s

We really weren’t sure which vendors to expect, knowing that many producers have chosen only to sell on select Saturdays (the list of vendors on the website is thus not that helpful). But we were pleasantly surprised at the variety – Doef’s, Kuhlmann’s, Sundog Organic and Steve & Dan’s were on hand for produce; Nature’s Green Acres, Sunshine Organic, Irvings Farm Fresh, Medicine Man Bison and Ocean Odyssey for protein; and Prairie Mill to round out the basics. We missed seeing Van Os Dairy though – it was nice to be able to get organic milk on the same trip as well!

City Market

Produce at Sundog Organic

Obviously, Mack and I are thrilled to have a year-round farmers’ market within walking distance of our home, and will continue to support this venture. However, I’ve said it before, but I will say it again – the Market needs to do a better job at informing consumers which producers will be present on which days (their advice on the website is this: “make sure you talk to your favourite vendors and find out their market schedule”). Particularly because vendors will be inconsistent through the season, I really think it would not only help shoppers plan, but help the market as a promotional tool.

City Market

Kuhlmann’s

When we approached the information table with this question, we saw they had a detailed matrix of vendors and market dates on paper. We asked why that information wasn’t available online, and we were told they were still learning how to use the new website, and didn’t have the final confirmation for some vendors. Though the Alberta Avenue Farmers’ Market is much smaller, they’ve managed to do this, so there is precedence.

As I mentioned, we will be back next week, but we do hope some minor tweaks will be made to help make this market the best year-round option in Edmonton.

The City Market at City Hall will run every Saturday (except December 24 and 31) from 10am-3pm until May 2012.

City Market: City Hall Edition

The City Market is back, ten weeks early! Last week, it was announced that the downtown farmers’ market would be operating in City Hall from March 12 until May 14, after which the market would return to 104 Street. Mack and I were happy to have a farmers’ market within walking distance again, and were excited to check it out this afternoon.

City Market

City Market @ City Hall

Flush with natural light, the City Room was as close as we could get to having an outdoor market indoors. Many of the vendors remarked at how bright and open it felt, and of course, how warm it was – the heated tents were definitely not ideal for our climate. The only thing that seemed to be missing, atmosphere-wise, was music.

There were over two dozen vendors present, a good mix of City Market regulars and new vendors. It was good to see Medicine Man Bison, Nature’s Green Acres, Prairie Mill, Barr Estate WineryMighty Trio Organics, Kuhlmann’s and Steve and Dan’s out.

City Market

Steve & Dan’s Fresh BC Fruit

Doef’s and MoNa, stalwart vendors during the May to October market season, will also be at City Hall (MoNa will be back April 2, after a short break).

City Market

Doef’s

Several vendors who have weekly booths at other markets have also joined the City Market, including Shooting Star Ranch and Gold Forest Grains (regulars at the Alberta Avenue Market) and Bella Dolce Bakery (who also sells at Salisbury).

City Market

Bella Dolce Bakery (their biscotti are perfect for dipping, made without shortening or fat, which means they won’t fall apart)

The last winter City Market we attended in the parkade was a bit disappointing – we found a trip to the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market was still necessary to get the rest of our groceries for the week. Now, with the variety of fruit, vegetables, proteins and other products, the winter City Market is now more of a one-stop shop! Kudos to the organizers – we’ll be back next week!

Mispon Winter Light Gala 2010

I was really excited to attend the kick-off event of this year’s Winter Light festival, Mispon Gala (mispon is “it’s snowing” in Cree). Based on last year’s evening of entertainment and food, I thought things could only get better, with Winter Light now in it’s second year.

Before entering City Hall, I walked past Churchill Square, expecting to find some outdoor activities similar to the previous year such as fire pits, light and lantern installations, or a snow maze. Unfortunately, the Square was bare.

All of the evening’s activity was concentrated at City Hall. Three fire pits had been set up around the ice rink, with some braving the cold playing around on the ice as we were leaving, but for the most part, everyone was indoors.

Outside City Hall

The ceremonies had just started when I arrived, with several festival event organizers taking their turn at the microphone to introduce their respective projects. After that, the audience was treated to a performance by Kristine Nutting’s Warm Up Burlesque – a cheeky, reverse burlesque that had the dancers pulling on layers of clothing. It was somewhat amusing, but not my cup of tea.

Krstine Nutting’s Warm Up Burlesque

To end off the night, Johnny Quazar and the Swingbots provided the musical backdrop as NAIT catering dished out comforting plates of food, including Big Rock Winter Spice Ale glazed meatballs and maple baked beans with sourdough crostini. Our favourite actually turned out to be the honey-scented bannock with Saskatoon marmalade – the bannock was sweet, with a lovely consistency similar to a scone.

Johnny Quazar and the Swingbogs

Bannock and Baked Beans

I was a little disappointed festival organizers didn’t go the route chosen last year – offering free hot chocolate to those who brought a reusable mug (I realize I should have brought a container for the food samples as well). I do think, however, that the more festivals remind us to bring containers with us, the better – it will eventually become habit.

In the City Room

As a whole, I was expecting more of the gala – more people, more excitement, more festivities. The tone seemed restrained this year, and as Mack noted, the lack of outdoor activities (for a festival that celebrates the cold season) was unfortunate. I am still looking forward to some of the upcoming events though, such as Ice on Whyte and the Silver Skate Festival. Check the website for more details.

Edmonton City Hall Tour

I went on a tour of City Hall this week amidst the spirited crowds and cheery atmosphere provided by the Street Performers Festival taking place just outside of the building at Churchill Square.

City Hall

Councillor Ben Henderson showed us around. We started in the council chamber, where Councillor Henderson explained what a typical meeting was like – from the question and answer-like structure (as opposed to a debate), to citizen participation being encouraged, to the standard audience makeup. With the push of a button, he showed us how the skylight could be shut out, useful in the instances that the overhead glare or outside noise becomes too much to bear. The coolest part of the entire tour (which makes me sound like an overexcited elementary child) was when he gave us the green light to sit in any of the city councillors’ chairs on the condition that we didn’t touch anything or attempt to change the height of the seats. Of course, we all went for the money shot.

Too cool! (I’m such a geek, I know.)

The next room on the tour, apparently not often seen by the public, was the interior of the second glass pyramid. What is the room being used for, you ask? Storage.

Think this is where Mayor Mandel works out?

Apparently the room isn’t very well ventilated or heated, so nothing too practical can be done in the space.

Looking down into the chambers

Transparencies change the color of the projected lights at night

One of the last stops was the wall where portraits of past mayors are on display. All are intact except Jan Reimer’s, whose picture was stolen and hasn’t yet been replaced.

Councillor Henderson shows us the “Mayoral Wall”

Looking down from the balcony

While the tour isn’t available for individuals, if you have a group between 10-25 people, it is an informative and behind-the-scenes look at a very important city landmark.

The view leaving City Hall