They have become landmark affairs in the city calendar. They are anticipated by both young and old, bringing out Calgarians of all ages to celebrate events as wide ranging as the ages of those on hand.
From the Lilac Festival and the International Children's Festival, which recently brought Calgarians out en masse to partake in the annual festivities, to Sled Island and the long-running Folk Music Festival, and the International Film Festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, it seems that the Calgary festival scene has something to offer for almost everyone.
Whether your tastes lean to the musical side, or you crave an avant-garde film or two, or you simply desire to spend a day in the sun in the company of others, the summer months are the highlight of Calgary festival calendar.
One festival that has garnered plenty of attention since it's launch in 2007 is Sled Island. A relative newcomer to Calgary's festival scene, Sled Island has brought bands like Drive-By Truckers, Cat Power and Spoon to Calgary, along with showcasing some of the best local talent our city has to offer.
"Remember when that beer company did that promotion where you got to see a huge band in a small venue? It's like that except we search far and wide for our talent and define ‘huge' by how great the live show is rather than by how many albums a band may have sold," says festival director Zak Pashak. "This type of festival is unique in Western Canada in its scope and is one of the few festivals in the region that truly celebrates Western Canada's thriving music scene."
The latest incarnation of Sled Island will take place between June 24-27th, boasting a line-up that includes Andrew W.K., The Bronx, Ladyhawk and The Breeders, amongst 200 or so other bands that will play various venues across the city.
On a slightly different note, the Calgary Folk Festival has become an annual fixture in the city's festival schedule since it began in 1980 as The Travelling Folk Festival and Goodtime Medicine Show. Despite experiencing more than its share of ups and downs, including inclement weather and the great Doobie Brother controversy of '97, the event has become an institution of sorts, not to mention the best way to take in some great music whilst relaxing on the green grass of Prince's Island Park.
Part of the Folk Festival's allure comes from it's ability to offer something to almost everyone, regardless of their age or musical tastes.
"I think the high artistic caliber and the diversity of the artists keep bring people back, as well as the good vibe people get by being down at the island," says Kerry Clarke, artistic director at the Calgary Folk Music Festival. "It's a very multi-genre festival. We're called a folk (festival), but we cover indie music, world music, Celtic, hip-hop - we're all over the map."
The 30th annual Calgary Folk Music Festival will take place from July 23 to July 26, with acts like Arrested Development, Bell Orchestre, The Decemberists, Gomez and Iron & Wine gracing the seven stages at Prince's Island Park.
For those who desire a more culinary experience, events like the Kensington Sun and Salsa Festival, and Taste of Calgary offer up some first-class foodstuffs as the main attraction. Both events allow visitors to partake in some of the finest cuisine offered up by businesses and restaurants throughout Calgary, along with music and live entertainment to help further tantalize those taste buds.
The Kensington Sun and Salsa Festival heats up on July 19, while Taste of Calgary returns to the Festival Plaza in Eau Claire Market from August 6 to August 9.
"Festival goers can sample over 40 different salsas and vote for their favourite," says Annie MacInnis, the festival's organizer and Executive Director of the Kensington Business Revitalization Zone. "And one hundred percent of the money raised will be donated to charity."
And of course, no discussion of the local festival circuit would be complete without mentioning the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF). Regarded as the third largest festival of its kind in Canada, CIFF has grown by leaps and bounds since first being introduced in 1999, expanding its lineup from just 40 films to more than 300.
"Being one of the larger film festivals in Canada, we seem to bring in all types of crowds," says Brenda Lieberman, who is the lead programmer for CIFF and also is the founder of another local cinema event, the Calgary Underground Film Festival. "It's a high-profile event, and it's getting bigger all the time."
CIFF was recently voted as one of the "top 25 film festivals worth the entry fee" by MovieMaker Magazine, no doubt a testament to not only the level of notierity that the festival has gained since its launch, but also to the prizes and award money being handed out by CIFF.
This year, CIFF is introducing the Maverick award, which will reward one feature filmmaker with a cash prize of $25,000, along with awards for Best Documentary, Best Short Documentary, Best International Feature Film, Best Canadian Feature Film, Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short, Best of Alberta Short film award, and the Audience Favourite Award.
The 2009 Calgary International Film Festival will kick off on September 25, and run until October 4. The deadline for those looking to submit films to CIFF is June 12.
Calgary Folk Festival