Calgary’s 4th Street Lilac Festival will reconnect the community with outdoor live music, entertainment and local vendors after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, organizers say.
The Lilac Festival — scheduled on the first Sunday in June annually — has been the largest outdoor street festival in Calgary for more than 30 years but was cancelled in 2020 and 2021, along with many other big gatherings. As musical artists and vendors converge along 4th Street again on Sunday, event producer Jennifer Rempel said it will be a celebration of community.
“This is about coming together in the streets, reconnecting and re-establishing our normal lives, that we’ve all had to make changes to. We really feel like Lilac Festival has always been the kickoff to summer,” said Rempel.
“We really want to kick off our summer in the right way, celebrating on 4th Street together as we have in the past and creating a sense of community and civic pride.”
This year’s festival will stretch onto 17th Avenue, as well. This was an expansion of the event that was meant to debut in 2020 before the festival was cancelled, Rempel explained.
The festival spans 4th Street between 13th Avenue and Elbow Drive S.W., with the expansion on 17th Avenue from 2nd to 5th Street S.W. Starting at 10 a.m. Sunday and running until 6 p.m., the festival is free for all ages.
Over 50 local musicians and dance groups will perform on five separate stages on 4th Street and on a sixth stage on 17th Avenue. Entertainers headlining the festival include Amelie Patterson, Carter and The Capitals, Oliver Miguel and the Revolucion and Mariya Stokes.
“It means so much, not only to the residential community — as this is the day the city of Calgary turns their eyes to 4th Street — but also to the business community,” said Rempel.
About 95 per cent of businesses in the area were able to remain open despite the pressures of the pandemic, Rempel explained, so this event is also a way for them to reach new customers and clients.
Michelle Fentiman, owner of Without Co., opened her shop about six months before COVID-19 spread to Alberta, so this year’s Lilac Festival will be her store’s first.
“This is what Mission has been known for, so it having been cancelled for the past two years has had an impact,” Fentiman said. “Mission, especially the retail side, has been so hard hit with people not going downtown for work, not as many folks are coming through the neighbourhood.”
Business is bouncing back but having the Lilac Festival return will bolster business and community spirit, she said.
Without Co. has products launching for the event and Fentiman is arranging various promotions and “swag bags” for customers. Without Co. is a zero-waste home goods and clean beauty store, at 103 2115 4th Street S.W.
“It will hopefully be a profitable, fun and brand-promoting day,” she said.
Rempel said the best way to get to the festival is by transit, but there are also plenty of bike racks in the area. And while it’s an outdoor event and dogs are welcome, Rempel said pet owners should be cautious about the size of the crowd.
“So many have furry friends that joined them during COVID, be conscious that it is a large crowd and some of them haven’t experienced crowds like this,” she said.
Information about the event and stage schedules are available on the Lilac Festival’s website, lilacfestival.net.