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The battle of Edmonton festival sites: Churchill Square versus Capital Plaza

WATCH: Taste of Edmonton moved to the Alberta Legislature grounds this year and that has Edmontonians getting a taste of two squares. Vinesh Pratap has the venue feedback.

Move over Churchill Square, it seems there’s a new festival site in town.

Due to construction in downtown Edmonton, many of the summer festivals that usually call Churchill Square home have packed up and moved to Capital Plaza, just north of the Alberta legislature.

READ MORE: Policy change solidifies Capital Plaza as permanent Edmonton festival site

Taste of Edmonton is currently set up at the new location, and a few days into the summer food festival, we decided to hit the streets to find out which site people prefer: Churchill Square or Capital Plaza.

Normand Campbell is the owner of Normand’s Restaurant. He’s been a vendor at Taste of Edmonton for the past five years and said he’d be in favour of making Capital Plaza the permanent home for future festivals.

“The space is way better,” Campbell said. “Look at it, you think you’re at the Vatican with the legislature right behind here. And you’re looking at it, it’s more open. It’s beautiful.

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“Benches everywhere, places to sit everywhere, picnic tables everywhere. It’s so much more relaxed.”

READ MORE: Edmonton planners think about moving downtown festivals long-term

Plus, because the entire site is licensed, Campbell said people are free to walk around with a bite to eat, along with a beer or glass of wine.

“Before, you used to have to crowd everybody into a beer garden because of the licensing laws. Well now, they’ve relaxed that. Now you walk into this square, you can have a glass of wine, the kids are having a pop or a drink,” he said.

But the move isn’t without a few glitches. Because the ground surface is granite in some sections of the plaza, deep fryers aren’t allowed.

Campbell also pointed to concerns surrounding a lack of parking and the ability to get deliveries to the site. He also questioned why the underground Government of Alberta parkade wasn’t made available for vendors.

“I had to find my own parking, which was hell,” he said, “because I had to get picked up.”

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Other vendors expressed concern that some areas of the site aren’t as open as others.

“99 Avenue is definitely very crowded for the operators and for the customers as well,” said Mike Bhatnagar, owner of The Hat. He’s been a vendor at Taste of Edmonton for six years. “It’s a nice view of the legislature building in the back and it’s great to be here, but at the end of the day, I personally prefer to be at Churchill.

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“It’s a mixed bag,” Bhatnagar continued. “It’s a great location, some challenges here… Connectivity, parking, green areas, shade, grass. And I think more than that, the nostalgic moments of [Churchill Square] — people have been going there.”

READ MORE: Edmonton 2018 summer festivals and events

When it comes to customers, it appears views there are mixed too.

“I love it here,” Corrie Williams said. “I think the food is even better here than it was at Churchill Square.”

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“This is good but I think Churchill Square is the best,” Sara Harb said. “It’s the hub and where everything happens. We’re used to it.”

“I like the layout of Churchill Square, you know where everything is,” Irene O’Brien added. “Here, you’re sort of surprised that there’s a whole other aisle to get to and you didn’t really account for that when you bought your tickets.”

Watch below: With dozens of menu items, you may want to head to Taste of Edmonton with a strategy in mind. Community reporter Margeaux Maron got some tips from festival goers, including advice on getting the best bang for your buck.

Getting the best bang for your buck at Taste of Edmonton
Getting the best bang for your buck at Taste of Edmonton

Festivals will likely continue to be forced out of Churchill Square next summer while construction continues. While no solid plans for the 2020 festival season have been made, some say Capital Plaza opens up options for the future.

“I personally feel there will be a debate, a very intense debate because everybody is divided. Even my family is divided,” Bhatnagar said with a laugh. “2020 might be open for discussion.”

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What do you think? Which site do you prefer? Weigh in through our online poll below.