This summer was supposed to mark the return of festivals to Sir Winston Churchill Square, the premier outdoor space in the heart of the city. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced the province to cancel all major gatherings while organizers reconsider their plans for summer 2020, postponing the return of summer fun to the famous city square.
Festivals were unable to use Sir Winston Churchill Square for almost two years, starting in summer 2018, when construction of the Valley Line LRT forced the square to close. The Edmonton International Street Performers Festival, Taste of Edmonton and other festivals were forced to relocate other venues.
The Street Performers found a temporary venue just north of Whyte Avenue, while the Taste of Edmonton relocated to Capital Plaza, north of the Alberta Legislature. This summer was meant to mark a return to their traditional home.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, festivals and events that previously called Sir Winston Churchill Square home were all planning to return to the square in 2020. Each of these festivals is now weighing their options within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and will make decisions related to their 2020 event in the coming weeks and months,” said Karen McDonnell, a spokesperson for the City of Edmonton.
Restrictions on gatherings of more than 15 people were still in place in early May, with the expectation that these restrictions will likely continue throughout the summer. The city’s civic events and festivals section was not accepting new event applications as of late April.
While large gatherings at Sir Winston Churchill Square are prohibited, organizers are looking at ways of moving forward while abiding by provincial restrictions.
“We are not cancelling the good that can come from the festival,” said Shelley Switzer, the festival producer for the Street Performers Festival. “We are going to adapt to still provide the fun, the connection, the ways to find some laughter and smiles to continue to be kind and good and find a little bit of good through this time.”
“We are not cancelling the good that can come from the festival.”– Shelley Switzer Producer, Street Performers Festival
Switzer didn’t have specifics about what may come, but said they will be making announcements on their website, edmontonstreetfest.com.
The Taste of Edmonton has also postponed their 2020 festival, looking to return stronger in 2021. After two years at the Alberta Legislature, Events Edmonton General Manager Donovan Vienneau said they were excited to make the return to Churchill Square.
It was supposed to be an exciting year implementing learnings after two years away from their traditional location, trying some new layouts back at the square. Unfortunately, Vienneau said they will have to postpone Taste of Edmonton until 2021.
“We are open-minded to try to do something [online], but with us being a non-profit organization, we have to be fiscally responsible,” said Vienneau. “It would need to be very strategically implemented for us.”