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Organizers say fundraiser for Edmonton’s Fringe Festival is showing success

Click to play video: '‘Find your Fringe’ unveiled as theme for 2024 Edmonton festival'
‘Find your Fringe’ unveiled as theme for 2024 Edmonton festival
WATCH: It's a new year and a new theme for the 43rd annual Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival. While unveiling this year's theme, organizers also updated the fundraising efforts launched earlier this year in a bid to keep the festival going. Jaclyn Kucey has the latest – May 17, 2024

A campaign launched by the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is showing some success at a time when organizers say the event is struggling financially.

During an announcement to unveil the theme of this year’s festival, organizers provided an update Friday to the “Sustain Fringe” campaign, which calls on the community to support the “transformative power of the arts.”

The organization launched the campaign in March, asking the community to donate, sponsor the festival or volunteer their time to help the popular summer festival stay afloat amid skyrocketing expenses and dwindling funding.

More than 290 people have become monthly donors, raising $100,000 since the campaign launched. When the campaign began, Fringe had 34 monthly donors.

Megan Dart, executive director of the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, calls the success a “slow return” to the way things were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Edmonton Fringe, the largest and longest-running festival of its kind in North America, is still recovering from the $3-million loss in revenue it experienced after cancelling its 2020 event due to the pandemic.

“We are still very much in recovery,” Dart said.

“While these donations have certainly provided us with support and some predictable support that allows us to continue to plan for the future, we’ve got a long way to go.”

Click to play video: 'Expenses threaten the future of Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival'
Expenses threaten the future of Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival

Dart said organizers are scaling back certain elements of the festival, but don’t expect the artistic or patron experience to be impacted.

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“Based on industry insights, what was previously believed to be a three to five-year recovery window in the arts, is now being estimated at a 10-year post-pandemic rebuild,” Dart said in March.

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Organizers encourage the community to become monthly donors, purchase tickets for the Fringe 50/50 or sponsor the Fringe.

Fringe is looking to raise $300,000 by the end of this year’s festival, which returns to Old Strathcona from Aug. 15 to Aug. 25.

Fringe to spotlight 216 productions, more than 1,600 performers

The Fringe, now in its 43rd year, will spotlight 216 productions across 38 venues, featuring more than 1,600 local, national and international artists.

Last year, the festival received more than 500,000 site visits, drove more than $16 million into the local economy and returned more than $1.2 million in ticket sales directly to the artists.

The theme for this year’s event is “Find Your Fringe,” which comes from the idea that many festivalgoers experience Fringe differently, according to Murray Utas, artistic director of the Fringe.

“If you’re coming down for green onion cakes and watch a couple of buskers outside and then you’re out, totally valid,” he said.

“You want to binge 44 shows … that is also super valid. We were just talking about how unique that was, and there’s sort of a bit of a ‘Where’s Waldo’ with it as well, in the sense that there are a lot of hidden things that … that represent how we got to this moment.”

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Megan Dart, left, and Murray Utas, right, take part in an announcement to unveil the theme of the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival. Jaclyn Kucey / Global News

Alongside aspects like the infamous Late Night Cabaret, which will move from the Backstage Theatre to the Granite Curling Club, the Indigenous-centred performance series pêhonân will make a return.

Utas said the event often acts as the first performance for many theatre creatives.

“We are proud that that is a piece of who we are, but I don’t know that people know that aspect,” he said Friday.

“I think we’re really trying to double down on that and let the community know that they’re not just investing in us, we do give back to our community and uplift them.”

More information on the Edmonton Fringe can be found on the event’s website.

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