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Edmonton Economic Development Corporation: Summer in Edmonton is Full of Festivals and Looking Good!

EDMONTON, ALBERTA -- (Marketwire) -- 06/27/12 -- What does summer look like in Edmonton? Actually, it looks a little different on any given week, depending on what festival is going on. There's a good reason why Edmonton is known as "Canada's Festival City". The city hosts more than 30 major festivals throughout the year - and some of the biggest and brightest take place in the summer months.

Visit Edmonton's Sir Winston Churchill Square anytime during the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival, July 6 - 15 and you'll wonder if you've stepped onto a movie set. Located in the heart of downtown, Sir Winston Churchill Square is also the centre of the city's arts district. During the Street Performers Festival, the Square is transformed into a hilariously magical place filled with a most interesting cast of international street artists. Imagine it: roving Latin-dancing clowns, a juggler juggling chairs (seriously!), and flaming acrobats (literally flaming... with fire!).

Unlike other festivals where the performers are onstage and the audience is in their seats and literally in the dark, the Street Performers Festival is "about getting the audience together with the artists," says Shelley Switzer, Executive Director of the festival. And lights are on all the time! "You can watch the show. You can watch the rest of the audience. And you can interact with all the amazing roving acts too."

It's a great way for families to make some great (and hilarious) summer memories, says Switzer. It also makes for a great date experience, she adds.

"The beauty of our festival is that you can come down to the Square and take in a variety of activities all day and every day 11 am to 11 pm," says Switzer. "With over 1500 outdoor performances, there is always something amazing happening."

Here's a sneak preview of what you might expect to see on any given day. There are performers like Justin Case (an astounding bicycle act from France), Bendy Em (a contortionist), Australian visual artist Ulla Taylor (designing a stunning 3-D chalk art display), the Silent Disco (a truly hilarious interactive experience) and a number of street artists who are brand new to this year's festival, such as Mexico's Poncho Libre and Ireland's The Lords of Strut, a duo that will do practically anything to be celebrities. Of the latter, Switzer promises "very physical comedy with a lot of Irish charm."

One of the best things about the Street Performers festival is that you don't need a ticket to get in. It's free - and you get to decide the value of the performance after it's done.

The summer festival season in Edmonton continues with a festival making its auspicious debut this year: Interstellar Rodeo, a celebration of music, wine and food, July 27 - 29, presented by Six Shooter Records. Part of the appeal is the venue itself. The Interstellar Rodeo is held onstage at the Heritage Amphitheatre in beautiful Hawrelak Park, in Edmonton's sprawling and scenic river valley - 22 times larger than New York's Central Park. (In Hawrelak Park, you don't feel like you're in the city at all!) It's the perfect setting to sample great food and wine and see performers like Sinead O' Connor, Randy Newman, Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys, Blue Rodeo, and more.

Yet more incredible live music in another scenic setting happens August 9 - 12, with the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, held in gorgeous downtown Gallagher Park, also in the river valley. Using Gallagher Hill as a natural amphitheatre, this laid-back and very cool folk music festival features some very big acts this summer. Among the performers include legends like Emmylou Harris, David Lindley (of Mercury Blues fame), Ricky Skaggs, Valdy, and Arlo Guthrie with the Guthrie Family Reunion, celebrating folk idol Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday). There is something equally legendary about spending a full day at the Folk Fest. Stay until nightfall and it's positively magical. Sit upon the soft, cool green grass, see the glow of candles throughout the crowd, hear thousands of people singing in harmony, and you'll know exactly why folk legend John Prine considered this to be one of the best folk festivals on the planet.

It could be said that Edmonton's summer of festivals saves the best - or at least the biggest - to the last. The Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is Canada's largest and longest-running Fringe Festival and third biggest in the world, with more than 1,600 performances of 220 non-juried and uncensored plays, running each day until midnight, August 16 - 26, in venues throughout the historic Old Strathcona area and beyond. Presented by Fringe Theatre Adventures, "this festival seems to be an unstoppable creative force," says Julian Mayne, Executive Director of FTA. He's right. It's been going for 31 years now.

"Fringe Theatre Adventures is a platform for independent theatre showing," says Mayne. True to the "indie" spirit of things, all the Fringe action spills far beyond theatres on the Fringe site in Old Strathcona. "What makes us unique to Fringe Theatre festivals is our Bring Your Own Venues," he says. "In these cases, the artists are the ones finding the venues." Those venues include non-theatre settings such as boutique hotels and second hand bookstores.

Every year, just to make things extra campy and fun, the Fringe festival is themed. This year, the theme is "The Village of the Fringed!" If that brings up children born of a radio-active extra-terrestrial event - children who have the ability to control minds - it's pretty apropos. "Theatre has created a strange and wonderful community here each August," says Mayne. And what you'll find when you're on site at the Fringe is that this community of theatre performers and fans is huge. It's also quirky with a capital-Q.

To get your hands on some equally quirky limited edition "Village of the Fringed" paraphernalia, visit www.fringetheatre.ca. Learn more about Edmonton through the stories of those who have experienced it, click here.

Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) provides leadership in economic development, markets Edmonton as a must-see destination, manages the Shaw Conference Centre and Edmonton Research Park, and acts as a stakeholder in TEC Edmonton, a joint venture with the University of Alberta. For more information, visit www.edmonton.com Learn more about Edmonton through the stories of people who've experienced it at www.edmontonstories.ca

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