The 2018 Taste of Edmonton festival will be held at the Federal Building plaza, just north of the Alberta Legislature.
Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason made the announcement Tuesday morning, adding the festival will also use portions of 99 Avenue and Capital Boulevard.
“The plaza provides an exciting, centrally located space for Albertans to enjoy the food and entertainment of one of the capital region’s most loved and anticipated summer festivals,” Mason said in a media release.
The government worked with Events Edmonton to come to an agreement on the site. The GM of Events Edmonton said finalizing the site is a huge weight off of his shoulders.
“We have fine-tuned the plan and settled on what works for each of us, while respecting the challenges of the site and ensuring Taste still delivers its key programming elements,” Paul Lucas said.
“It’s been three years of grey hair and we’ve been trying to work very diligently with our partners and here we are today and I’m going to go home and have a nice gin and tonic tonight and celebrate.”
The announcement came after the food festival spent three years searching for a new location for the annual event. LRT construction is forcing Taste of Edmonton, and other summer festivals, to move out of Churchill Square until 2019.
The Federal Building location was chosen after some confusion surrounding the move. Earlier this year, festival organizers were told the provincial space was not an appropriate temporary home for the festival due to its food and drink rules.
A policy from 1976 prohibited drinking and dancing on the provincial site. Mason made it very clear Tuesday that that policy is changing.
“I think you should be able to dance in your legislature, on the grounds,” Mason said. “You should be able to have a good time. This is where we want people to be and we don’t want them to be bored when they’re here.”
Watch below: Confusion over what to do with Taste of Edmonton 2018 festival (Filed April 3, 2017).
Other concerns were raised that cooking on the site — particularly with grease and oil — would damage the granite in the square. As a solution, all restaurants and food trucks that cook with grease and oil will be located off the plaza, on 99 Avenue and Capital Boulevard.
“Dry cooking that doesn’t involve oils and so on can occur on the plaza. So we’ve just worked it out,” Mason said, adding that those booths will also have wood and possibly rubber flooring underneath to protect the stone.
Lucas said the festival has excellent cleaners and they will ensure the site is kept up to expectations.
“We do a pretty good job of cleaning up Churchill Square,” he said. “We leave Churchill Square cleaner than we get it and it’s with professional cleaning and we’ve been talking to them and they have some plans that they want to pitch to the provincial government about how they can do a better job of cleaning it than we are at Churchill Square.”
Mason said next year’s Taste of Edmonton will be an experiment of sorts when it comes to holding events on the plaza. He hopes it can become a more open, public space for Albertans to enjoy.
“The attitude that used to be, I guess before me, was that this was sort of a sacred space and there was a bit of entitlement to it, that it’s for the politicians and their friends and the senior bureaucrats and stuff,” Mason said.
“No. My view is this is the public space. This is where we want people to be and Taste of Edmonton is an excellent way to make that point and to invite people and to make sure people are welcome, to come here and enjoy their legislature grounds and to have a good time doing so.”
The Alberta government and Events Edmonton said Tuesday they will continue to finalize the plans and logistics in time for next July’s festival. Infrastructure, such as permanent power, will need to be installed in order to run the more than 40 restaurants that set up at each year’s festival.
Attendance at this year’s Taste of Edmonton was slightly lower than in previous years. Organizers said the weather played a role in the drop in attendance.
Taste of Edmonton plans to move back to Churchill Square in 2019.