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Showing posts from July, 2017

Reason #62 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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El Cortez & Other Bitchin' Bars

By Emil Tiedemann

There’s a bright red neon sign on one of the rustic brick walls of Old Strathcona’s El Cortez Tequila Bar & Kitchen that reads, “Find what you love and let it kill you.” It’s a quote from the late German-born, L.A.-based poet Charles Bukowski, who Time magazine once called “the laureate of American lowlife.” 

His words of drudgery and toil have influenced countless writers and artists since, including El Cortez co-owner Melanie Swerdan, whom may not take those words literally, but certainly retains the sort of passion Bukowski was alluding to. That passion is evident on every wall, in every corner, and within every aspect of El Cortez, perhaps the most unique bar in all of Edmonton, and certainly the city’s only one that specializes in tequila. 


“I remember this place, I remember partying here when it was Wooly Bully’s,” Swerdan answered when I asked her why she and co-owners Michael Maxxis, Eli Diamond, and Bill Graham chose t…

Reason #61 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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Our Neighbours

By Emil Tiedemann

We couldn’t have asked for better next-door neighbours than the likes of St. Albert, Sherwood Park (Strathcona County), Fort Saskatchewan, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Leduc, Nisku, Devon, and Beaumont! 

These nearby communities that surround our city limits offer that small-town mentality on those days when you just need to get away from the hustle and bustle of a large metro like Edmonton. The Capital Region, as it is often referred to, is really just one large community at heart, each offering their own special personalities and attributes. 


St. Albert, for example, is one of Canada’s “best-kept secrets,” according to MoneySense magazine, which consistently ranks the small city of about 64,000 as one of the best places to live in the whole country, even reaching #1 on the list as recent as 2014. 

That says a lot about the people who live in St. Albert, practically and almost literally a hop, skip, and a jump from Edmonton’s northwest. In fact, it’s quite c…

Reason #60 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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The Concerts

By Emil Tiedemann

I was just 12 years old when I went to my very first concert. My buddy Peter and I were both “Straight Up” in love with Paula Abdul, and knew we had to see her as soon as we found out that she was coming to Edmonton to perform at what was then known as the Coliseum (with opening act Color Me Badd). 

We stood on the floor of the arena, barely able to see over the heads of the people in front of us, and sang along to every song in her repertoire. I know now how lame this sounds, but we were kids and love makes you do silly things!


Although it was years before I would ever go to another concert, they would eventually become part of what I did. It didn’t necessarily have to be at the arena or stadium either, because Edmonton seems to always be a tour stop for all the biggest names in the music industry, from AC/DC to Jay-Z, and anybody and everybody in between. 

In fact, you may not realize it, but there are shows happening in Edmonton every single night, in cafe…

Reason #59 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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Edmonton Valley Zoo

By Emil Tiedemann

I struggled with No.59 on this list, I have to admit. Not that I necessarily have anything against the Valley Zoo - an institution here in Edmonton since 1959 - but I’ve been wary of the whole zoo industry in general for years. 

However, the Valley Zoo in particular was a part of my childhood, and a part of growing up for countless locals for decades now. It’s a place where parents can take their young children for the day to teach them about other species from around the world and from throughout our own homeland. 


I remember taking field trips in elementary school to the Valley Zoo and being fascinated with the various types of reptiles, birds, wild cats, and of course, Lucy the Elephant, who has become somewhat of the poster child for those who are against elephants in Canadian zoos. Even American game show host Bob Barker has visited the Zoo to speak out against Lucy’s northern residence, and there is an entire group dedicated to having Lucy remov…

Reason #58 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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Winter Activities

By Emil Tiedemann

Let’s face it, we’re a winter city, plain and simple. Sure, we’ve got distinctive and glorious springs and summers and autumns, but winter just seems to last the longest, and it can get pretty nasty at times. 

But, that’s okay, because Edmontonians - unlike many other Canadians - have learned to embrace and even appreciate our snowy season.


Every city in Canada deals with winter conditions, there’s just no way around it (unless global warming kicks in sooner than we anticipate), so you might as well use it to your advantage, right?! 

Edmonton is surrounded by some of the best places in the world for skiers and snowboarders (Banff, Jasper), but you don’t even have to leave town to get in on the slopes, because there are several options right at our doorsteps! 

Between the months of November and March, locals are able to take to the hills of the Edmonton Ski Club, the Snow Valley Ski Club, the Rabbit Hill Snow Resort, and the Sunridge Ski Area, all within t…

Reason #57 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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The Cinema

By Emil Tiedemann

Every time I drive down 111th Avenue, past the former A1 Trading pawn shop, I think about David Woolfson. He was a Jewish immigrant who ran the pawn shop on the corner of 94th Street, and he was the focus of Rosie Dransfeld’s Broke. documentary. 

Shot entirely at A1 Trading, the movie was a raw look at the real desperation of many of his shop’s inner city clients, focusing on an Aboriginal regular named Chris Hoard. The pair sparked up an unusual kinship, giving way to moments only real life could script. 


Broke. kicked off the 2009 Global Visions Film Festival (now called Northwestfest), Canada’s longest-running non-fiction film and art fest, screening mostly documentary features and shorts since 1983, when it was known as the Third World Film Festival. This wasn’t my first film fest in Edmonton though, nor would it be my last. 

Shortly before Global Visions, a couple of buddies and I had checked out DEDfest: Edmonton’s Horror Festival, the reincarnation of 20…

Reason #56 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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Whitemud Equine Learning Centre

By Emil Tiedemann

I remember when I first drove down Fox Drive and noticed horses galloping along this long white and green rail fence just meters away from the street. Am I seeing this right?! Were there actually horses right in the middle of the city, home in the river valley, speeding across a meadow just off the North Saskatchewan and the Trans Canada Trail? 

I think I smiled the whole rest of my drive home, in awe. How had I not heard of his place?! I turned to Google to make sure I hadn’t imagined the whole thing. 



The Whitemud Equine Learning Centre Association is a public pastoral horse farm “open to anyone with an interest in horses,” and in fact offers equine sports and activities for thousands of all-ages Edmontonians every year. 

Run mostly by volunteers, the Centre dedicates itself to improving the quality of living for locals through their world-class centre for equine learning, research, and therapy. And it’s been that way for a century now, s…

Reason #55 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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Yardbird Suite

By Emil Tiedemann

Considered “the bedrock of jazz venues in Canada,” the legendary Yardbird Suite, along Tommy Banks Way in Old Strathcona (since 1984), is the country’s oldest jazz club. Run entirely by dedicated volunteers, the Yardbird has a legacy of jazz music stemming all the way back to March 23, 1957, when a group of local musicians opened the original club on Whyte Avenue and 104th. 


Ken Chaney, Neil Gunn, Terry Hawkeye, Garry Nelson, Ron Repka, and Ray & Zen Magus knew they had something special here when they founded the Yardbird in a town not exactly known for its jazz scene. They named the venue after Charlie Parker’s 1946 bebop standard “Yardbird Suite,” which itself derives from Parker’s own nickname “Bird.” 

Although the great Parker never played the Yardbird (he died two years before it opened), plenty of jazz greats have taken to the stage at one of the Yardbird’s four incarnations, including Nat King Cole, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Don Cherry,

#YEG2DO: Step Up Tour 2017

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The What/
"In celebration of Frank & Oak's fifth anniversary, the Montreal-based brand is bringing its community together in local Canadian markets. We wanted to invite you to the brand's upcoming Edmonton fĂȘte. Please join us next week in a perfect prelude to the long weekend, where we'll toast to this innovative and always-fashionable Canadian brand." This casual get-together will include drinks, gifts, and the ultimate Canadian comfort food, poutine!

The When/
Tuesday, July 18 (6 - 11PM)

The Where/
The Black Dog Freehouse (10425 Whyte Avenue)

The How Much/
Free! 

Reason #54 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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Support Local

By Emil Tiedemann

For years, large chain restaurants and fast food brands have used Edmonton as a test market before they dispersed across the country, popping up on every corner and forcing local ma & pa shops to close their doors for good. Consumers are under the impression that chain stores, eateries, and shops offer lower prices and better guarantees on their products or services, but these are often misconceptions. 

There are plenty of perks when it comes to shopping at the smaller, independent businesses rather than corporate entities, such as inventory assortment, community support, or most importantly, the ever-elusive customer care. 


That’s not to say that all local shops are kind and community-oriented, or that all big box stores lack a good customer experience. But, for the most part, it’s the smaller markets where you buy your eggs and milk, your next pair of shoes, or go to do your taxes, that tend to go the extra mile to satisfy the customer, and get them c…

Reason #53 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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K-Days

By Emil Tiedemann

What was it when you were growing up that got you excited like that kid - my nephew - in the photo below? Was it opening presents on Christmas morning? Could it have been your birthday or Halloween, maybe? Perhaps it was standing in line for the latest iPhone! For me, it was Klondike Days



It was the thundering carnival rides, the endless carts of colourful sodas and sugary treats, the shooting and tossing games at every turn, with prizes that always seemed easier to win than they actually were! 

What more could a kid ask for, right?! And although the name has changed - a couple of times, actually - the excitement has not gone away. Kids, teens, adults, whole families look forward to those ten days at the end of July when K-Days takes over Northlands, and has been - for the most part - since 1879. 



Back then, on October 13, about 500 people attended the first-ever fair in the original Fort Edmonton region, which included local livestock, veggies, grains, and craft…

Reason #52 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village

By Emil Tiedemann

From 1892  to 1930, many Ukrainian Canadians settled in central Alberta, and generations of those early settlers’ families have remained here more than a century later. 



It’s those early years that are brought back to life at the award-winning Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, a giant living museum that uses costumed historical interpreters to recreate early pioneer settlements on a site not far out of city limits (near Elk Island Park on the Yellowhead Highway). 

This open-air attraction opened in 1974, technically as part of nearby Lamont County, on the shores of Goose Lake. It remains a popular destination for families and young students. 



There are dozens of restored historical structures at the Village, including Kiew Hall, Kolody Sawmill, Luzan Grocery, St. Vladminir’s Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church, Nellis Canadian National Railway Station, Demchuk Blacksmith Shop, Hilliard Hotel, Wostok Hardware Store, and the working Bellis…

Reason #51 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

By Emil Tiedemann

Although the Edmonton Orchestra Society had existed with more than a dozen players as early as 1913, it wasn’t until November 15, 1920 that the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra officially premiered at the Pantages Theatre on Jasper Avenue, A. Weaver Winston at the helm. 


Just 12 years later, in 1932, the orchestra suspended operations, and Edmonton went without its ESO for two full decades. Finally, on Halloween of 1952, the sounds of the symphony were restored in Edmonton, as the ESO registered as a not-for-profit organization and returned to the stage for the first time in 20 years, on November 30, 1952, under the conduction of Edmonton-born Lee Hepner

It took another two decades before the ESO fully transitioned into a professional orchestra, in 1971, and the following year they teamed up with English rockers Procol Harum for a live album recorded at the Northern Jubilee Auditorium, the ESO’s home for 40 years (1957-97).

Procol Harum Livein Co…

Reason #50 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

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West Edmonton Mall

By Emil Tiedemann

Eskander, Nader, Raphael, and Bahman Ghermezian first followed their father Jacob from Iran to North America in the late ‘50s, eventually settling in Edmonton by 1964, where they would transform their carpet importing business into a major real estate empire. It was that empire that would eventually take on a project that would transform our city as well. 


When West Edmonton Mall first opened its doors on September 15, 1981, it was the largest shopping centre in the world, and remained so until 2004 (it remains the largest in North America), at 5.3 million (& growing) square feet! Worth around a billion dollars today, West Ed employs about 24,000 people, welcomes more than 32 million visitors annually, and can accommodate some 20,000 vehicles. 

It has become one of the structural icons of Canada, a place where folks from around the globe come to shop and play in its more than 800 stores and services, including some brands you won’t find anywhere el…