Food

Taste of Edmonton’s food and music return to Churchill Square

Author of the article:

Tom Murray

Publishing date:

Jul 20, 2021  •  5 days ago  •  3 minute read  •  6 Comments

Edmontonians lineup for Taste of Edmonton food tickets, as they'll be doing this year in Churchill Square.
Edmontonians lineup for Taste of Edmonton food tickets, as they’ll be doing this year in Churchill Square. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

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In the last month or so, Donovan Vienneau has had more than a few sleepless nights over this year’s edition of Taste of Edmonton.

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“My friends and my wife were assuring me, ‘Don’t worry, we’re gonna get to the 70 per cent mark,’” says Vienneau, general manager of Events Edmonton, referring to the percentage of vaccinated Albertans needed for the province to move into the third stage of their much-vaunted summer reopening plan. “When we hit it, everyone in the office actually cheered a little because we were so excited and relieved.”

Vienneau has been living with any number of possibilities since he gained board approval to start planning for the 2021 edition of the long-running food, beverage, and music festival in September of last year. It hasn’t been easy, with successive waves of COVID-19, changing regulations and restaurant closures conspiring to keep Vienneau and his team on their toes. Add to this was the move back to Sir Winston Churchill Square from the festival’s temporary home on the Alberta legislature grounds, a spot that some festival goers preferred.

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“It’s a beautiful location,” Vienneau acknowledges, “and there was some consideration for it. It was only ever meant to be an interim solution, though. They were gracious hosts for the two years that we were there, but the overall cost associated with it was pretty high for us as a nonprofit. Also, the City of Edmonton has been an amazing partner for us, welcoming us back with open arms. We’re excited to be home again.”

Vienneau is also excited about the range of food visitors can expect at this year’s edition.

“There are so many diverse ethnic cuisines in Edmonton and we’re extremely proud of that,” he says. “For us to be able to showcase that on a grand scale, like, where else can you go that you’re going to be able to try 53 different cuisines and over 150 menu items. It’s pretty spectacular.”

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Even with relaxed restrictions, Taste of Edmonton has been organized to look out for the safety of guests. The list of participating restaurants and food trucks has been cut down from 79 in 2019 to 53 this year in order to accommodate a physically distanced two-metre gap between them. While the 2019 edition saw the festival testing out digital tickets through their app, this year they’ve opted to switch back to hard copy tickets via Tix on the Square.

The question of live music has been up in the air since Taste of Edmonton announced back in January they’d be moving forward. Normally the festival brings in a handful of well-known Canadian acts like Northern Pikes, Men Without Hats and Bif Naked to headline, but this year they’ve gone with an all-local lineup. Look forward to seeing performers like Chubby Cree, D’orjay the Singing Shaman, Marlaena Moore, and Audrey Ochoa Quartet as you’re chowing down on Jamaican patties, Ukrainian perogies or butter chicken.

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Chubby Cree will be performing during this year’s Taste of Edmonton festival, returning to Churchill Square Aug. 16.
Chubby Cree will be performing during this year’s Taste of Edmonton festival, returning to Churchill Square Aug. 16. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

“That was the very last piece of the puzzle for us,” Vienneau notes. “It was in the back of our minds since October. How are we going to do this respectfully? Are we going to have to put up Plexiglas, are we going to be allowed to have musical performances at all? It was a question we kept asking and the response was, ‘We’ll get back to you,’ which we completely understood.”

It’s still a chaotic time, and no doubt Vienneau and his team will be shifting and improvising as the festival draws near, but the general manager is ready for anything at this point.

“It’s an amazing place to be in, so I will take this craziness,” he laughs, “absolutely every single day of the week.”

Advanced online tickets can be purchased at a discount until July 21, and details can be found on the festival’s website at tasteofedm.ca.

yegarts@postmedia.com

Taste of Edmonton

When:  July 22 to Aug. 1

Where: Winston Churchill Square

Tickets: Free admission. Tickets can be purchased onsite. 

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