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Warm weather draws big crowd to Kaleido Family Arts Festival in central Edmonton

WATCH ABOVE: The 2019 edition of the Kaleido Family Arts Festival got underway in Edmonton on Friday and our Phil Darlington was there.

The Kaleido Family Arts Festival has transformed Alberta Avenue into a massive canvas and organizers say the summer-like weather is having a big impact on attendance numbers.

From Friday night through Sunday, five blocks of 118 Avenue are shut down to traffic to allow people to mingle and artists to spread out and show off their work.

READ MORE: Giant puppets added to playbill at Alberta Avenue’s Kaleido Festival

The event kicked off Friday night with a lantern parade. “We had hundreds and hundreds of people out, walking the streets together, bringing light to the neighbourhood,” producer Christy Morin said.

The family-friendly and highly interactive festival featuring music, food, arts and culture began 14 years ago as a way unite the north-central neighbourhood through the arts.

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The atmosphere at the festival is in stark contrast to the poor reputation the area had for many years due to a high rate of crime, which area residents have worked to battle.

READ MORE: 2 Edmonton neighbourhoods snag dubious distinction of most nuisance property complaints in the city

The city routinely receives hundreds of nuisance property complaints calls for Alberta Avenue and nearby McCauley, compared to the single-digit or dozens of calls in the city’s roughly 300 other neighbourhoods.

Residents have also expressed frustration over issues like violent crime and prostitution.

READ MORE: Sex trade arrests went up 184% last year: Edmonton police

Edmonton Police Service investigating in an alley north of 118 Avenue, between 49 and 50 Street. June 16, 2017.
Edmonton Police Service investigating in an alley north of 118 Avenue, between 49 and 50 Street. June 16, 2017. Dave Carels, Global News

In 2005, the community-led, City-supported “Alberta Avenue Revitalization Initiative” was launched to improve both the social and physical aspects of the area. The City has invested in streetscape improvements and a storefront façade grant program, providing several businesses in the area with facelifts.

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READ MORE: 10 years later, has revitalization led to change along Alberta Avenue?

The Kaleido festival has worked to inspire a new sense of community in one of the city’s poorer areas.

“When we started this 14 years ago, our hope and our prayer was really to edify the community through the arts, to see the arts become a tool and a way to be able to bring change and life and wholeness to a neighbourhood that was hurting — and I think it’s starting to happen.”

READ MORE: Edmonton festival cornerstone to revitalizing neighbourhood

From music and dance to storytelling and theatre, the festival features hundreds of eclectic artists and draw people from across the city.

“This is what we love to see, is people enjoying the festival,” Morin said.

“We put hundreds and hundreds of hours into prepping and getting it ready, and to be able to see people enjoying it and taking in the installations and creating and becoming artists, and having moments and memories, it’s just a gift back to us.”

The Kaleido Family Arts Festival in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood on Saturday, September 14, 2019.
The Kaleido Family Arts Festival in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood on Saturday, September 14, 2019. Global News
The Kaleido Family Arts Festival in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood on Saturday, September 14, 2019.
The Kaleido Family Arts Festival in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood on Saturday, September 14, 2019. Global News
The Kaleido Family Arts Festival in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood on Saturday, September 14, 2019.
The Kaleido Family Arts Festival in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood on Saturday, September 14, 2019. Global News
The Kaleido Family Arts Festival in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood on Saturday, September 14, 2019.
The Kaleido Family Arts Festival in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood on Saturday, September 14, 2019. Global News
The Kaleido Family Arts Festival in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood on Saturday, September 14, 2019.
The Kaleido Family Arts Festival in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood on Saturday, September 14, 2019. Global News

Morin said they are comparing this year’s attendance to 2017, because of last year’s September snowstorm. “We had about three inches of snow on the entire site,” she said, adding attendance was between 5,000 and 7,000 people.

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READ MORE: Say it ain’t snow! Northern Alberta wakes up to winter weather

That’s a stark contrast to Saturday’s sunny skies and temperatures in the high teens to early twenties. That’s brought out festival attendees in droves.

“Today we’re at least double of what we were two years ago, right? So that’s what we’re using as our marker, and that was about 55,000 for the weekend.

“So we’re looking at record-breaking numbers.”

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The festival is produced by Arts on the Ave, which also puts on Deep Freeze: A Winter Byzantine Festival. The Kaleido Festival continues until 6 p.m. Sunday.

WATCH: As the 2017 Kaleido Festival kicked off in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood, Kendra Slugoski took a look at how the Edmonton community has been undergoing changes over the past few years.

Edmonton’s Alberta Avenue continues to evolve
Edmonton’s Alberta Avenue continues to evolve

— With files from Slav Kornik, Global News