Thursday Nights on the Edge in Central McDougall and Queen Mary Park

Central McDougall and the adjacent Queen Mary Park are one of the City’s four revitalization projects. Just north of downtown, they are communities in transition, and though the progress is slow, with the NAIT LRT line set to open in April 2014, and the new arena slated just south of the neighbourhood, you can bet change is on its way, for better or worse.

Central McDougall is my adopted daytime home, and I have written in the past about how I have come to appreciate the area. Over the years, the Business Revitalization Zone and the Neighbourhood Revitalization Coordinator have organized some public events, but they are sporadic and for the most part, poorly attended. Though residents are generally invited to participate, I think more could be done to spread the word to others to explore these communities in Central Edmonton.

I’m happy that the BRZ has decided to continue with the “Around the World in 80 Bites” tour, now renamed Flavour Journey. There are three dates scheduled for this summer: July 17, 31 and August 17. Each tour will introduce diners to the food from three different restaurants within walking distance of one another, all for $30. Participating restaurants include Acajutla, Caffe Sorrentino, Com Pho, Fat Jakks, Macmacaanka Waamo, and Pho Huong. I hope to finally join one of the tours this time around!

Another exciting initiative are the Thursday Nights on the Edge series. I get the sense that it is primarily intended for residents in the area (especially given the late start time), but the events are so varied and creative that I hope the word gets out about the program!

Every Thursday evening from 7-9pm from July 11 until August 15, Central McDougall or Queen Mary Park will be hosting a unique, family-friendly activity, including a petting zoo, historical horse-drawn carriage tours and an outdoor classical music concert. Mack and I ended up joining their inaugural event last Thursday, titled “Urban-caching on the Edge”.

We arrived at the Queen Mary Park Community Hall at around 7pm. Several other families soon joined us, and before long, Cheryl, the Revitalization Coordinator, arrived with instructions in tow. She handed each group an unlabeled map noted with hand-drawn dots, and indicated that we would find “treasures” at each of the locations. We were to look for volunteers wearing “Thursday Nights on the Edge” t-shirts. She set the parameters that we should be able to reach all five locations within an hour.

Thursday Nights on the Edge

Ready, set, go!

We had come from another event that evening, so had the car. If we had taken transit or walked, it is doubtful we would have reached all five destinations. Given there were families with young children in attendance, without a vehicle, I’m not sure they would have made it to even one of the sites. In the future, a tighter start and end boundary would be recommended.

Thursday Nights on the Edge


With the help of Google Maps, we were able to roughly pinpoint the first destination in McDougall Park, where we found Laurene Viarobo, the Executive Director of the North Edge Business Association. She said we were the first to arrive, and handed us some swag, including revitalization-branded Frisbees and water bottles.

Thursday Nights on the Edge

Laurene hands out swag

For our next stop, we headed south, and keeping our eyes peeled, spotted a t-shirt hanging in the window of Produce Mart (10720 107 Avenue).

Thursday Nights on the Edge


It was a great excuse to step foot in the store, just two months old, but a welcome addition to a neighbourhood without easy access to fresh produce. The store is clean, with a solid selection of vegetables, fruit and other basics like milk. I hope the shop is successful!

Thursday Nights on the Edge

Produce Mart

After picking up more revitalization swag, we walked over to Caffe Sorrentino on 105 Avenue and 109 Street. It didn’t look open, so we weren’t sure if we had the coordinates right, but one of the younger participants pushed open the door and invited us in. Our prize? A generous scoop of gelato!

Thursday Nights on the Edge

Delicious reward

We enjoyed the treat on our way to our last stop (we skipped one by St. Joseph School with a balloon animal treasure), Ethan Allen. This destination highlighted the extremes of this neighbourhood, which range from lower-income rentals to pricey furniture boutiques. The staff inside were very friendly, and seemed happy to be a part of the event. We declined the spray tattoo treasure, though we noticed some of the teenaged participants particularly relished in this prize!

For their inaugural activity, I think the organizers did a great job! Mack and I enjoyed ourselves, and appreciated the opportunity to explore a few places for the first time. Check out the calendar for a list of dates and events, but coming up on July 18, Animals on the Edge at the Queen Mary Park Community Hall with a petting zoo, face painting, balloon animals and cotton candy.

Heat Up the Ave: 2011 Safe Streets and Night Market

My coworker (and all-around super citizen) Deborah and I headed to Heat Up the Ave: 2011 Safe Streets and Night Market after work on Wednesday. The original date in June had been rained out, so the rescheduled event made sure to have an indoor component in case of inclement weather (and, sadly for me, also meant the horse and buggy ride had to be cancelled). That turned out not to be necessary – yesterday was a gloriously hot summer night.


Heat Up the Ave

I’ve written before about my love of block parties – I think they provide fantastic opportunities for neighbours to meet and connect, especially vital for distressed and at-risk communities. In Central McDougall/Queen Mary Park, these informal gatherings have been used as a part of its revitalization strategy (Safe Streets was first held in June of last year, and the Night Market in August). As someone who works in Central McDougall, I am rooting for these initiatives to achieve their goals!



The Queen Mary Park Community Hall parking lot had been overtaken by tents featuring vendors, local businesses, non-profit organizations, and the Edmonton Police Service.


Deborah bought some bannock from the Creating Hope Society


Heat Up the Ave souvenir!

Live entertainment also helped set the tone, and I’m sure the music could be heard far down the street (that’s how block parties should be!).




It was great that a singer from Sudan was featured as well!

The community league and City of Edmonton had set up shop inside the hall, but it was clear the party was outside.


Inside the Hall

It was the perfect location for such a hot day, as a playground and spray park next to the hall were drawing many families to the area anyway. With face painting, a jumpy castle and hot dogs, kids were having a great time!


Queen Mary Park

The crowd was modest (though apparently we missed the biggest rush closer to the start of the event), but this event seemed better attended than the two last year. It was great to run into many familiar faces, and meet new ones too!


Pick-up soccer

Central McDougall will be hosting a similar event in September – here’s hoping it will be even bigger and better!

North Edge Outdoor Night Market

Things are slowly, but surely, changing in the neighbourhoods of Queen Mary Park and Central McDougall. Probably not fast enough for some, but it’s happening.

The two communities that make up the “North Edge” are one of the four areas the City has targeted for neighbourhood revitalization. The Queen, a community garden next to the Edmonton Chinese Baptist Church, is a great example of collaboration and connection. The enhancement of McDougall Park, with new light fixtures and two beautiful gazebos was finally finished a few weeks ago, and a gorgeous mural, painted on the side of a problematic convenience store on the Avenue of Nations was completed this week.

The Queen (photo taken by Biviana Velez-Perez)




Mural (it took students over 80 hours to complete)

The City has also been supporting community gathering events, such as the Safe Streets Fair that took place in June. Though it was a good idea, I had hoped for better execution – more prominent advertisements and more displays, among other things. As a result, I was looking forward to Friday’s Outdoor Night Market, hoping organizers would have learned from past mistakes.

Night Market

107 Avenue

The event was to start at 5pm, in perfect alignment with the end of our work day. Jill and I walked down the street from our office, excited to see that a few artists had set up on the corner of 107 Avenue and 105 Street. It was strange though that these two artists were so isolated from the rest of the activities taking place down the street – as with the Safe Streets Fair, things seemed to be spread too far apart.


Timeless Photos

As we walked towards 101 Street though, we found more of what we were expecting – artists, jewellers, crafters, rummage sale tables and community business displays. We both thought the granite/stone company was a bit out of place, but others might have appreciated the range of offerings. I will say that it was challenging to navigate the narrow space in between the booths and the end of the sidewalk, given the number of people who were milling about – the fair really would have benefited from closing down 107 Avenue to pedestrian-only traffic.

Night Market


The Way We Green

The Way We Green display (Mack, who joined us later, was excited to see that the surveys were being done on iPads)

There was food on hand as well – samosas and chicken biryani from Central 101, and very tempting spring rolls and pork skewers from Fat Jaaks (when isn’t meat on a stick tempting?).

Fat Jaaks

Pork on a stick from Fat Jaaks

I am not ashamed to admit that my favourite part of the evening ended up being the hayride. I really didn’t think it would work – only one lane of traffic was closed, and really, I wouldn’t consider Central McDougall to be the most scenic neighbourhood. But it was fantastic.


Overhead canopy


Puppy in the driver’s seat


Jill with the horses

I was happy to see the turnout, and it looked like people were having a great time. Bravo to the North Edge Business Association who sponsored the fair, and to everyone else who contributed to the event. I hope for more such gatherings in the future!

City Market Report: Week 7

Though we didn’t plan on loading up on produce this week (we’re in the process of moving), we knew our Saturday wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the City Market.

Busy, as usual

It wasn’t as hot as the previous weekend, which was a nice change. And even better – BC fruit was out in full force this weekend! Steve & Dan had cherries, raspberries and even strawberries! I really would have loaded up, but the thought of having to eat the contents of our still-bursting fridge in the next two days was enough of a deterrent.


Lovely raspberries

Jennifer at Sundog Organics was disappointed that we missed out on their first batch of carrots (their produce goes fast!), but we were able to report back that their pea tendrils were a hit as a pizza topping at the Slow Food Edmonton Solstice Supper last week (something I have yet to write about…).

Lettuce from Sundog Organics

Walking by, we noticed that a sign that read “Innisfail Growers” had replaced the usual “Edgar Farms” banner. We chatted with Keri who said that while Edgar Farms normally stops selling at the market after asparagus season ends, because of how fantastic the City Market is, they decided this year to bring products from the five producers that collectively make up Innisfail Growers. They include Beck Farms (produce such as carrots, broccoli, kohlrabi), Upper Green Farms (potatoes), Jungle Farm (fruit, spinach, artichokes, and other vegetables), Hillside Greenhouses (tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers) and of course, Edgar Farms. Look for a customer appreciation day/farm gate on August 15, 2010. I’m really glad to see more produce available at the market!

Innisfail Growers booth

Kuhlmann’s still had quite a bit of vegetables available still, including some monstrous spinach.

That would make quite the salad

The piece de resistance of our visit was an Eva Sweet waffle – it would be Mack’s first. While it looks like Eva Sweet will no longer be on the Alberta Avenue Farmers’ Market circuit (due to low traffic), I think they are a welcome addition to the food carts at the City Market. Anticipating their line-up, they were placed at the north edge of the market.


Sarah, Sable, Raffaella and friends were out enjoying the market as well, and happened to be awaiting some waffle goodness too. Even Dexter was excited!

Raffaella and Dexter

I decided to try the vanilla flavour this time, while Mack opted for the classic cinnamon variety. I liked the cinnamon better, but loved the caramalization on my waffle. Mack thought it was a bit sweet for his palate, but did enjoy it.

With my waffle

As we strolled down the street, it was funny to watch as people turned to look back, curious as to what we were eating. That’s the best thing about food carts – it becomes a conversation starter! Eva Sweet will be back next week – look for them!

A vanilla waffle from Eva Sweet

There was so much to do this Saturday in Edmonton (The Works, Edmonton International Jazz Festival, among others), but we chose to check out the Safe Streets Community Fair on the way home, taking place this afternoon in Queen Mary Park/Central McDougall.

Safe Streets Community Fair

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend a tour of two areas targeted for revitalization – Alberta Avenue (apparently now known as “The Avenue”) and McCauley – the first obviously further along than the second community. Queen Mary Park/Central McDougall is still in the early stages of revitalization efforts (the plans were just released), but I’m excited that things are finally starting to happen.

Neighbourhood revitalization booth

I’d love to get my agency more involved (participating in Fifteen to Clean was just the start to me), but we’ll see. In the meantime, I wanted to make an effort to check out the event.

Edmonton Police Service booth

Though the fair was supposed to start at 11:30, many activities, such as basketball hoops, were still being set-up. Mack had a question of why the booths (less than a dozen) were so spread out – sometimes less space between is better, to lend some vibrancy to the event.

Cool inflatable WallE tent

I hope more people stoppbed by after we left – besides a few signs on 107 Avenue, there wasn’t much in the way of advertisement for this event. Regardless, I hope this is the first of many such gatherings!