Samples of Edmonton’s meals and music return to Churchill Sq.

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Tom Murray Edmontonians line up for Taste of Edmonton Food tickets as they will do in Churchill Square this year. Edmontonians line up for Taste of Edmonton Food tickets as they will do in Churchill Square this year. Photo by David Bloom /Postal media

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For the past few months or so, Donovan Vienneau had more than a couple of sleepless nights during this year’s edition of Taste of Edmonton.

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“My friends and wife have assured me, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to hit the 70 percent mark,'” said Vienneau, general manager of Events Edmonton, referring to the percentage of Albertans vaccinated in the province Enter the third phase of their much touted summer reopening plan. “When we hit it, everyone in the office cheered a little because we were so excited and relieved.”

Vienneau has lived with a variety of opportunities since receiving board approval last September to begin planning for the 2021 edition of the long-running food, beverage and music festival. It hasn’t been easy with successive waves of COVID-19, changing regulations, and restaurant closings conspiring to keep Vienneau and his team busy. Added to this was the move back to Sir Winston Churchill Square from the festival’s temporary home on the Alberta Legislative Grounds, a location preferred by some festival-goers.

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“It’s a beautiful place,” admits Vienneau, “and there was some thought. However, it was only ever intended as an interim solution. They have been gracious hosts over the two years we have been there, but the total cost of this has been quite high for us as a nonprofit organization. Also, the City of Edmonton was a great partner for us who welcomed us with open arms. We look forward to being home again. “

Vienna is also looking forward to the culinary offerings that visitors can expect at this year’s edition.

“Edmonton has so many different ethnic cuisines and we are very proud of that,” he says. “So that we can present it on a grand scale, wherever you can go, so that you can try 53 different cuisines and over 150 dishes. It’s pretty spectacular. “

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Despite relaxed restrictions, Taste of Edmonton was organized to keep guests safe. The list of participating restaurants and food trucks was reduced from 79 in 2019 to 53 this year in order to compensate for a spatial distance of two meters between them. While the festival tested digital tickets via its app in the 2019 edition, this year they decided to switch back to hardcopy tickets via Tix on the Square.

The question of live music has been in the air since Taste of Edmonton announced in January that it was moving forward. Typically the festival headlines a handful of well-known Canadian acts like Northern Pikes, Men Without Hats and Bif Naked, but this year they have an all-local lineup. Enjoy artists like Chubby Cree, D’orjay the Singing Shaman, Marlaena Moore and Audrey Ochoa Quartet while you eat Jamaican patties, Ukrainian perogies or butter chicken.

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Chubby Cree will perform during this year's Taste of Edmonton Festival and will return to Churchill Square on August 16th. Chubby Cree will perform during this year’s Taste of Edmonton Festival and will return to Churchill Square on August 16th. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postal media

“That was the very last piece of the puzzle for us,” says Vienneau. “That was in the back of my mind since October. How do we respectfully do this? Do we have to set up Plexiglas, are we allowed to have musical performances at all? It was a question we kept asking and the answer was, ‘We’ll get back to you’, which we fully understand. “

It’s still a chaotic time and no doubt Vienneau and his team will move and improvise as the festival approaches, but the general manager is ready for anything at this point.

“It’s a great place to be, so I’ll endure this madness,” he laughs, “absolutely every single day of the week.”

Advance online tickets can be purchased at a reduced price until July 21st. Details can be found on the festival website at tasteofedm.ca.

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Taste of Edmonton

When: July 22nd to August 1st

Where: Winston Churchill Square

Tickets: Free admission. Tickets can be purchased on site.

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