Edmonton summer festivals sizzle, despite shaky Alberta economy

WATCH ABOVE: Despite Alberta's shaky economy, some Edmonton summer festivals are cashing in. As Kendra Slugoski reports, that may have more to do with sunshine than anything else.

If the good weather continues, Taste of Edmonton could be looking at a record year in terms of attendance, general manager Paul Lucas said.

“We’ve started off extremely well. The weather has been very co-operative the first three days of Taste of Edmonton.

“Last year, the opening weekend was quite rainy, but this year, we’re tracking about 16 per cent ahead of our attendance from last year,” Lucas said.

READ MORE: Edmonton 2016 summer festivals and events 

The event also saw an eight per cent increase in ticket pre-sales – food tickets sold one month before Taste of Edmonton even started. That is a record number for the event.

All those conditions are setting the stage for a big year for the culinary festival.

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“I believe if the weather gods are on our side, I think we are going to establish a record,” Lucas said. “It’s all in the hands of the weather.”

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The forecast for the week predicts temperatures in the low- to mid-20s with sun, some clouds and the chance of rain or thunderstorms on a few occasions.

Weather may be out of organizers’ control, but there are many steps they’ve taken to draw more attendees.

“We’ve made a conscious effort this year with the Festival Consortium to work together with the other festivals and do a lot of promotion outside our city,” Lucas explained.

Last year, roughly 450,000 guests checked out Taste of Edmonton.

READ MORE: Taste of Edmonton 2016 includes Mac & Cheese Balls and Veg Kurkuri 

Edmonton Tourism says international travel to the city remains fairly steady, but regional visits are down.

“I think this has just been a tough year all around in terms of the economy,” Renée Williams said.

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“We’re maybe not seeing the numbers on the regional front that we’ve seen in the past, but we’re certainly doing what we can to increase our campaign activity in that market.”

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READ MORE: Edmonton’s K-Days by the numbers 

However, there has been one demographic that is checking out Edmonton events more than in previous years: locals.

“What we are seeing this year, which is kind of neat, is a lot of locals, who are maybe choosing to be more cautious with their spending and their vacations, staying in Edmonton and taking in those festivals and events that they are sometimes out of town for.”

Edmonton Tourism is looking at peaks and valleys in the year, trying to find out if there are ways of balancing the attractions and attendance more evenly across 52 weeks in the city.

Ideally, it would like to see something fun happening every single weekend in Edmonton.

READ MORE: Edmonton Tourism attracting more visitors to ‘winter city’ 

For the Interstellar Rodeo, attendance numbers aren’t the marker for success.

Rodeo Boss Shauna de Cartier says quality is the overarching theme for the musical event in Hawrelak Park.

Over the years, the concert has hosted well-known acts such as Blue Rodeo, Alabama Shakes and, this year, Sam Roberts.

“This is a small venue with a capacity of 3,000 or 4,000 people,” de Cartier said. “That’s one of the challenges: how do you grow a festival with the limited capacity? So we’re trying other areas like the market area.”

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More food options have been added to the event, but de Cartier says the limited size helps keep the vibe “chill.”