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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
— With files from Slav Kornik, Global News