Edmonton festival and event organizers reassessing a return following unveiling of Alberta's reopening strategy


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A member of Alberta’s live events coalition says the province is placing unfair expectations on organizers to provide the “best Alberta summer ever” after leaving the industry directionless amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Jason Kenney announced on Wednesday the province’s three-stage reopening strategy for the summer, which begins June 1. The plan is dependent on vaccination rates hitting benchmarks of 50 per cent, 60 per cent and 70 per cent of eligible people with at least one dose, and declining hospitalizations.

Kenney said all public health restrictions could be lifted within a few weeks as long as Albertans continue to do what’s right.

“In short, it means (we’ll) get things back to normal and I think it means the best Alberta summer ever,” he said.

Caitlin McElhone, the owner of CM Events and a member of the Alberta Live Events Coalition (ALEC), said she’s cautiously optimistic about the plan. She said she felt relieved to be given some direction by the government after months of being left without any guidance.


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However, she said public expectations need to be curtailed a bit as event planning takes months of preparation.

“To be given six weeks’ notice that it’s going to be the best summer ever is definitely an unfair expectation to put on an industry that’s been completely shut down and devastated and out of work for (15) months,” McElhone said. “Tourism and travel are not back up and running at full capacity. We have no control over other countries and border relations and restrictions. For a lot of festivals that do bring in international acts and bands and performers and all these wonderful things, will they be able to travel to Alberta or Canada for the summer and be ready to go in the next couple of months?”

Some Edmonton events and festivals that were forced to shut down last year because of the pandemic have already announced they will be returning. K-Days announced on its website that the annual summer festival would be returning from July 23 to Aug. 1 with planning already underway.

Jim Gibbon, the executive director of the Edmonton Heritage Festival, said they will be returning to Hawrelak Park after coming up with a 40-page safety plan.

Visitors to the multi-cultural festival will have to wear masks and will be required to get a free ticket ahead of time to gain entry. Tents will be spread out 10 metres apart and there will be fewer cultural groups in order to create more space.

“If Albertans just line up and get their shots, we don’t have to worry about it,” Gibbon said. “We’re almost a full month after Stampede and people are worried about that but that’s another month of shots. If the government says it’s safe to go and the shots are in the arms, then I’m very happy that they’re giving Albertans a chance to celebrate the summer.”


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Not all festivals and events will be returning. The Edmonton International Street Performers Festival announced Thursday that the event at Churchhill Square would be postponed over health and safety concerns.

Mayor Don Iveson said it’s premature to guarantee that large events will be returning to Edmonton, adding the city will be making its own decisions on issuing event and parade permits based on vaccination and hospitalization rates.

“We’ll try to make decisions about events and gatherings here in Edmonton based on the best science and data available at the time,” Iveson told reporters Thursday. “I think counting on this being a normal summer, it’s possible, but it’s by no means a guarantee and I wouldn’t want any kind of complacency to set in for our population in the meantime in anticipation of that because that is precisely what will jeopardize the kind of summer we hope to have.”

He said the city may keep the mandatory mask bylaw in place longer than the provincial restriction, however, he felt it was likely that it would be repealed in advance of the current expiry date at the end of the year.

— With files from Dustin Cook and Dylan Short




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