The oldest Canadian festival dedicated to street performers wraps up this weekend in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Beginning in 1985, the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival was the brainchild of Sheldon Wilner and Dick Finkel. The show started with at total of 20 performers including the famous wirewalker Phillipe Petite, who is most known for walking between the World Trade Center Towers. Today, the festival hosts more than 60 performers to an audience of approximately 180 000.
Everyone is welcome to attend the event at Sir Winston Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton. There are performers from all over the world including musicians, dancers, face painters, comedians, acrobats, clowns, and magicians. A strong lady from Australia also attends the famous event that is a favorite of established street performers around the world. Best of all, the entire event costs nothing to attend. Instead of charging a fee to get in, the festival encourages a ‘pass the hat’ sort of payment. What a great way to introduce a public unfamiliar with that style of entertainment to the intimate quality of street theater!
The Edmonton International Street Performers Festival isn’t just a sit back and watch type of event by any means. Besides the rover performers, the festival has a variety of children’s activities as well as ‘busking lessons’ that allow you to learn some of the tricks of the trade. This includes a hip hop workshop as well as circus skills and face painting. The entire festival finishes off with a large group performance Sunday afternoon.
Also occurring in the city at this time is the Freewill Shakespeare Festival. The event features fine performances of Shakespeare’s finest works in the evenings and weekend matinees from mid-June to mid-July. Two plays are performed 6 days a week throughout the festival in the outdoor Heritage Amphitheatre.
The event began in 1989 and has performed more than 25 performances for almost 170 000 people since its humble beginnings. If you would like to go, the tickets are very inexpensive especially if you consider the caliber of performance. They also have “pay-what-you-will” on Tuesdays and openers. For the kids, the organization holds a ‘Shakespeare Camp‘ in the summer as well.
There are many wonderful events throughout Edmonton and the Canadian prairies. Music, art, and many other visual performances give you the chance to support the art community and enjoy intimate performances that you cannot experience anywhere else in the country. Even people who are adamant about this type of thing not being their style easily become addicted to these festivals and continue to return year after year.
(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/edmonton-street-performers-festival-alberta-event/)