Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tradition and Innovation in Canada's Festival City

Inline images 1

Tradition and Innovation in Canada's Festival City

Edmonton's longest running festival is K-Days.

The festival began in 1879 as a forum for farmers to share ideas and trade goods. Like today's farmers' markets, the event showcased locally produced products including vegetables, grain and livestock. The inaugural exhibition took place on the site that is now the city's historic Fort Edmonton Park.

As the city grew so did the exhibition, reaching 80,000 visitors by 1910. The fair relocated to its current site at Northlands Park, which is a slap shot away from Rexall Place, home of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers. Over the years, organizers added attractions including midway rides and family entertainment to augment the popular agricultural showcase.

Producers gave the fair a facelift in 1964. They renamed the festival Klondike Days as a nod to Edmonton's past as a trading post for prospectors bound for the Northwest Territories during the Gold Rush. The theme was an instant hit, and attendance records grew to over 740,000.

This year, the festival celebrates a new name. Organizers asked Edmontonians to rename the festival, and the people picked K-Days, a nickname locals often used to refer to Klondike Days. Classic events have been brought back this year. People can pan for gold in Klondike Park or enjoy songs performed by Klondike Kate, the festival's iconic ambassador. But K-Days also looks to the future with its varied programming.

Today, music is as much a part of K-Days as the agricultural exhibition.  Expect to catch Colin James and Down with Webster at this year's festival. In addition, K-Days showcases the next generation of talent with the K-Days Talent Search. The talent competition has featured rising stars, including last year's winners Jessy Mosop and Stephen Lecky, who went on to perform at the 2012 Canadian Youth Talent Competition. This year, the format expands to include different acts and older performers.

Organizers say the 'K' in K-Days can mean anything you want, which is fitting since anything can happen at the festival. In 2012, Mark and Kari-Ann Rattray celebrated their wedding day by doing what they did on their first date: they slid down the Kiwanis Giant Slide.

Across the river, a fledgling festival has tuned into the city's love of outdoor music concerts. Shauna de Cartier of Six Shooter Records combined her love of music and wine to create the Interstellar Rodeo.

She had attended Edmonton's popular Folk Music Festival since she was 14 and believed the popularity of the festival meant Edmonton had a huge appetite for great music, and the city could accommodate another outdoor music festival. A song lyric by Veal, one of the bands de Cartier represented, inspired the name of the festival while her love of Americana music shaped the line-up, but as the festival name suggests, she wasn't afraid to pick artists outside the genre.

The Heritage Amphitheatre in William Hawrelak Park played home to some amazing acts during the first festival. Randy Newman and Blue Rodeo were familiar faces, but it also featured some surprise hits such as the Caroline Chocolate Drops, who brought people to their feet after almost every song.

The new finds were not limited to artists either. Festival goers also discovered new wines, courtesy of Gurvinder Bhatia, a wine connoisseur who lent his expertise. He paired wines with artists, looking for the right notes in wines that best characterized the artists' musical personalities. The clever insights into artists and wine were a hit.

He is excited about finding the right wines for this year's performers, which include the Alabama Shakes, Steve Earle and the Dukes, Serena Ryder and John Fullbright. Whatever your musical or wine tastes are, Interstellar Rodeo will have something for you.

A new festival feature, Interstellar All-Stars, invites various artists such as Jim Cuddy, Danny Michel and Quique Escamilla on stage to learn and play each other's songs. This rare chance to watch artists collaborate is a music lover's dream. This isn't Edmonton's first Interstellar Rodeo, and it certainly won't be our last.

July 19 - 28, 2013
For more information go to:

Interstellar Rodeo
July 26 - 28, 2013
For more information go to:

Last 30 Days' Most Popular Posts