The first full capacity Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival since before the pandemic began is being hailed a huge success.
This year’s Fringe Festival — dubbed “Destination Fringe” — wrapped up on Sunday evening. While exact attendance numbers have not yet been released, organizers say people came back to the first full Fringe Festival in three years in a huge way.
“I think that there is a Fringe audience from our community and a festival audience from our community that will never go away. And they were ready. Out of the gates, everybody flew out really, really quick,” said Murray Utas, Fringe Theatre’s artistic director.
“People are all over this site all day long. I think the biggest thing I hear from patrons and visiting artists is: ‘You have audience here all day long.’ I think it truly is the magic of Edmonton Fringe.”
This year’s Fringe Festival offered up more than 160 shows — four times more than last year’s scaled-back event. Of those shows, Utas said 22 per cent were sold out.
“That is staggering,” he said from the festival grounds Sunday. “Artists have been ready to create again. There’s a lot of new work.
“This city is absolutely supportive of our arts and culture overall,” Utas continued. “It’s a beautiful place to be. There’s something special about Edmonton that just says, ‘We’re into it.'”
One of the most popular events at the festival was KidsFringe.
“KidsFringe has been packed from the moment it opens to the moment it closed. We ran out of everything there from the passports that became so popular that we were filling out and we had to keep scrambling to get going,” Utas explained.
The weather for this year’s festival was fantastic, with hot weather during the day and warm temperatures at night.
“The weather has cooperated,” he said, adding it was even better to come out of a show after midnight and not have to put on a jacket.
“It was still warm. It was still T-shirt warm. We haven’t had that all summer and for it to show up on the Wednesday night, which was our street party — which was probably the most beautiful experience I’ve had in that park in a very long time — the heat showed up and it stayed warm throughout the night.”
Utas recognized there will still some people who weren’t ready to come back to the festival as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. But he said when those people are ready, the Fringe will be waiting for them.
“We want to grow in an intentional, incremental way and I think our audiences are going to do the same, because I think we got all of the audiences this year that were ready to come back. I think the only ones that weren’t here were the ones who were not, but we meet everybody where they are. So when they are ready, I think they’re going to just keep coming and I think we’re going to climb.”
Several shows have been held over this week and can be taken in from Aug. 24 – 27. Details on the holdover series can be found on the Fringe’s website.