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Reason #98 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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The Other Festivals

By Emil Tiedemann

I would be remiss if, in a town rightfully recognized as “Festival City,” I didn’t mention all of those other exciting and enticing festivals that happen all year round here in Edmonton.

The 101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton book includes individual entries for the Fringe, Folk Fest, the Street Performers, Heritage Fest, and collectively the film festivals (‘The Cinema’), but there are so many others that deserve to be praised, and this list simply wouldn’t be complete without them. So, in alphabetical order, here they are from A to Zoofest...


ALL IS BRIGHT FESTIVAL (since 2013) 124th Street and High Street light up for one vibrant Saturday night in November, as All Is Bright celebrates the coming of the winter season by providing illumination, entertainment, food, fashion, and plenty of all-ages fun. It is hosted by the 124th Street Business Association.

ANIMETHON (since 1994) Japanese animation fanatics come out for three days in August to partici…

Reason #97 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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Morning Radio

By Emil Tiedemann

If you’re one of the lucky ones who get up in the morning and can’t wait to get to work, then good for you!! Sorry, I haven’t had my coffee yet. But, if you’re like the majority of us - who either dread that spirit-crushing alarm clock or would rather be doing anything else other than getting up before humans were ever meant to and then heading to a job that offers little to no stimulus - then coffee isn’t the only thing you will probably need to get you through the weekday mornings. 


I kid, I kid! Although it doesn’t actually solve any of our problems of having to work for a living, those voices we hear coming from the local radio stations seem to make our starts to the day a little more bearable. 

Most of my mornings begin with Crash & Mars of 102.3 NOW! Radio, who have the illustrious ability to make me laugh out loud when I’m alone in my vehicle no matter how little sleep I managed the night before. They also happen to be the reigning “Best Radio Mo…

Reason #96 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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Citadel Theatre

By Emil Tiedemann

Bernard Engel, of the University of Alberta’s Drama Department, starred in and directed the premiere of Edward Albee’s timeless Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? during opening night on November 10, 1965, back when the Citadel Theatre was located in the now defunct Salvation Army citadel. 

“The 277 theatre patrons who flinched in their new soft seats 50 seasons ago while George and Martha hammered each other ferociously onstage,” wrote the Edmonton Journal’s Liz Nicholls in 2015, “were in on the birth of something big: a city-changer; the country’s biggest, most secretive, most splendidly appointed, most idiosyncratic regional theatre; a national cultural institution.” 


Of course, the audience had no idea at the time, but Edmonton-born Citadel founder Joseph “Broadway Joe” Shoctor (1922-2001) probably did. Known for his all-consuming and excessive leadership of everything that went on within the walls of the Citadel, right down to the actors who hit the sta…

Reason #95 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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Mercer Building

By Emil Tiedemann

John B. Mercer started his liquor and drug business in Battleford, Saskatchewan during the 1890s, before he moved west to Edmonton in 1900 to sell liquor, beer, wine, and cigars out of a shop on Jasper Avenue and what is now 96th Street. 


Mercer was very successful in sales, soon becoming the local representative of beer from the Calgary Brewing Company, as well as the only agent in town selling imported spirits like Scotch Barley’s Gaelic Old Smuggler. 

“This firm deals direct with old country producers, and handles some of the finest whiskies that are distilled over there, also French brandy, cordials, gin, and all the other spirits that are made in different countries most expertly,” wrote a reporter for the Edmonton Bulletin newspaper in 1911. 

That was the year that Mercer opened the Mercer Warehouse on the corner of 104 Avenue and 103 Street in what would soon become known as the Warehouse District. The three-floor brick & mortar building served …

Reason #94 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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Ice District

By Emil Tiedemann

I spent a brief time in Toronto in 2005, and would head downtown each day I spent there. It was full of people everywhere, browsing around in shops, sipping on wine and chugging beer in the pubs; busy hot dog stands were on every corner, Chinatown poured out into the sidewalks, buskers performed in the streets, gray-haired men played chess in the parks, City Hall brimmed with crowds, and outside diners shared the concrete walkways with tourists and their expendable cash. That’s what I wanted for my city. For our city. 



In 2010, as the lengthy debate over whether or not Edmonton should fund the proposed downtown arena project was heating up, I penned an article highlighting all of the reasons why we did, in fact, need it! 

“So much uninhabited space, unused infrastructure, ignored charm in such a large portion of a region that is supposed to be the hub of a metro,” I wrote about the state of our downtown in 2010. “This absence of activity is not only off-putt…

Reason #93 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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The Opera & Ballet

By Emil Tiedemann

English musician and photographer Vernon West Barford (1876-1963)  moved to Edmonton on January 15, 1900 from the Northwest Territories, where he taught for two years. In 1904, Barford established Edmonton’s first opera, The Chimes of Normandy, for the newly formed Edmonton Amateur Operatic Society. 


That was eventually succeeded by Beatrice Carmichael’s Edmonton Civic Opera (1935-46), Herbert & Eileen Turner’s Light Opera of Edmonton (1950-67), and finally the Edmonton Professional Opera Association in 1963, premiering with Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly that October, and Jean Letourneay at the helm as artistic director. 

By the time the society shortened its name simply to the Edmonton Opera in 1966, our hometown was synonymous with oil, not culture. It was probable that most locals at that time never even knew there was an opera in town, let alone took in one of its shows. Nonetheless, the Edmonton Opera survived and evolved over the com…

Reason #92 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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McCauley Neighbourhood

By Emil Tiedemann

When the City initiated their revitalization plans for the inner city McCauley neighbourhood, area residents were excited and perhaps a bit relieved. Dozens of homes and businesses were built soon after kickoff, while the City poured millions into streetscaping, infrastructure renewal, and investment in a district with somewhat of a rough reputation. 


Named after Edmonton’s first mayor Matthew McCauley (1850-1930), the neighbourhood is now a vibrant and ethnically diverse region, full of restaurants and cafes dedicated to dishes from around the world, mostly located in and around the “Little Italy” core. 

The whole of it seems to be anchored by the bustling Italian Centre Shop on 108th & 95th Street. This European-inspired marketplace first opened in 1959 when Italian immigrant Frank Spinelli pooled his savings with partner Remiro Zalunardo to buy the original building that still stands today. Hundreds of locals walk, bike, or drive down to the…