Recap: A Streetcar Named Dessert with Sugared and Spiced

For the past few years, enterprising groups such as Streetcar Shows have been organizing gigs that take place on the High Level Streetcar. It’s a unique and intimate venue to be sure, and given the limited number of seats, the shows always sell out. I’ve been hoping to attend one of the concerts, but haven’t been able to snag tickets. So when I saw that Sugared and Spiced was advertising an event they were putting together (cheekily named “A Streetcar Named Dessert”), I jumped at the chance.

The streetcar concert would feature baked goods from Sugared and Spiced and Edmonton singer/songwriter Martin Kerr. Mack and I have been longtime fans of Martin (he performed at our wedding), so we couldn’t think of anyone better to provide the soundtrack to the evening.

On a Saturday in September, Mack and I headed to the Strathcona Streetcar Barn on south side of the river to join two dozen other guests.

High Level Streetcar

Off we go

It’s been at least a year since we’ve ridden the streetcar, but every time we do, we’re reminded of how fabulous the volunteers from the Edmonton Radial Railway Society are. Hugh and Sarah demonstrated their passion and knowledge about the streetcar, and made the experience even more memorable. It’s amazing that the streetcar continues to be operated entirely by volunteers; hopefully Edmontonians never take this for granted.

High Level Streetcar

Hugh, one of the Edmonton Radial Railway Society volunteers

Along the way, were each treated to a generous slice of cake (the rich, dense chocolate peanut butter was delicious). If that wasn’t enough, we were each provided with a box of goodies to take home, packed with brownies, macaroons, rosemary shortbread, ginger cookies, madelines, and my personal favourite, the girls’ night in cookie with chocolate, caramel, raspberry dessert wine and coarse salt.

A Streetcar Named Dessert

Almost too pretty to eat

Martin played two short sets. Although Mack and I have heard him perform many times before, this was the first time we were able to learn the inspiration behind some of his songs, including one he often plays at the farmers’ market. He was well suited to this small venue, and his rendition of Hallelujah, as we sat atop the North Saskatchewan River under the darkened skies, was simply magical.

A Streetcar Named Dessert

Martin Kerr

Even before the evening was through, Amy and Jeff were already fielding questions as to whether or not they’d organize another Streetcar Named Dessert. They have, and tickets are only available in conjunction with their current Alberta BoostR campaign. Sugared and Spiced will be opening a brick and mortar bakery next spring, and are hoping to crowdfund some of the start-up capital that they need. Although they reached their first goal of $20,000 in just a few days, they’re still hoping to get to $50,000 by October 27, 2016.

Thanks to Amy and Jeff for putting together a wonderful event, and best wishes on the BoostR campaign in these final weeks!

2011 Edmonton Transit System Historical Tour: Strathcona Tour & Streetcar Sunset

Though I love joining tours of cities I’m visiting, it’s something I also like to do at home. Being a tourist in your own city is a way to remind yourself of the things that make it great, or at least, things to appreciate and consider from a different perspective.

For that reason, we’ve been meaning to take in one of the Edmonton Transit System Historical Tours for some time, but in the busy festival season, it has fallen by the wayside for a number of years. In July, I made sure to purchase advance tickets for what seemed like the highlight of the series – a bus tour of Old Strathcona, followed by a ride on the High Level Streetcar…at sunset.

Apparently, the tour sold out right away, and could have been sold three times over had there been room, so I was glad to have bought the tickets when I did (at a steal of only $10 each!). Two weeks ago, we walked over to City Hall to board a full bus of excited patrons ready for a history lesson and a ride.

ETS Historical Tour

We were given paper fans at the start, handy while we waited for the bus to depart

The bus travelled through downtown en route to Old Strathcona, as our guide pointed out buildings on 97 Street (such as the W.W. Arcade) that, early in the 20th century, made it the premiere shopping district in Edmonton. We passed the Alberta Hotel, still being rebuilt, the Hotel MacDonald, and the former Canadian Pacific ticket station on Jasper Avenue. Then, there was a stretch where the phrase, “On this site, the former…once stood” were repeated too many times to count. It was a poignant reminder, in the face of the BMO Building’s demolition, that much of Edmonton’s visual history can now be found only in photographs.

The route took us over to the University of Alberta Campus, then back downtown, where we departed the bus in favour of the streetcar. I have so much respect for the Edmonton Radial Railway Society – I am constantly amazed that the High Level Streetcar is maintained and run entirely by dedicated volunteers. The car we were seated in, for example, was refurbished with over 35,000 volunteer hours, after the frame was recovered from a farmer’s field.

ETS Historical Tour

Car #33

One of the operators, Don, had the kind of wry humour that put everyone immediately at ease. He provided commentary while we road over the High Level Bridge to the south side (did you know the south end of the bridge is 8 feet higher than the north end?).

ETS Historical Tour

Our tour guide, Don

Once we reached the Old Strathcona stop (we overheard that the City is considering adding an additional stop further south at Whyte Avenue for next year), we were invited to depart and take a look inside the ERRS museum inside the bus barns.

Though it wasn’t very big, Mack and I loved looking at the memorabilia, and the signage from lines past.

ETS Historical Tour

To market, to market

Once everyone had a chance to stretch their legs, it was back on the streetcar for the moment we had all been waiting for. The skies had threatened to rain all evening, but we were a fortunate lot, as the clouds held off. The sunset was all the more spectacular given our vantage point.

ETS Historical Tour

Onto the bridge

Edmonton from the High Level Bridge

Mack’s spectacular panoramic shot

With the streetcar parked on the middle of the bridge, we were treated to a heightened “cocktail party” (heh). Nothing exotic, just juice boxes and some chocolate, but at that moment, we didn’t need anything more than the view.

Edmonton from the High Level Bridge

Sunset view

Edmonton from the High Level Bridge

Bye, LRT!

The Historical Transit Tours will start up again next summer. Though I’m certain all of them are equally informative, there’s just something about a sunset tour of the High Level Bridge that’s priceless, and something I’d say everyone in Edmonton should do at least once.

ETS Historical Tour

Good night!

You can see the rest of Mack’s photoset here.