It might be a reaction to the winter that makes an Edmonton summer the best summer in the world. In the course of a lifetime, the average Edmontonian will spend about 2,800 hours, or four months, “dressing warm” to go outside in winter, and another month just stamping snow off boots into the grooves of black rubber mats.
Pop Quiz: Which of the following statements are things the author has heard from Edmontonians? a) Yeah, there’s a lot of snow, but I have to go out, I have theatre/movie/hockey tickets. b) I can’t stay in. Mohammed has a hockey game/Jennifer has volleyball/I have hip-hop dance class. c) Stay in? No way. It’s Dollar Days at IGA! d) All of the above.*
Blizzards that would stop entire national economies are mere inconveniences. Edmontonians keep walking and talking, through blizzard after blizzard, their words enclosed in white clouds of respiration like comic strip balloons, confident that it will all be rewarded — the snow will melt, the sun will shine harder, and the air will fill with the smells of charcoal smoke, mown grass and grape Kool-Aid.
I love the creative and wilful ways in which Edmontonians exploit every last golden moment with non-stop festivals from May to September. My favourite of these is the Fringe festival, when the collective id explodes in Old Scona with everything from a giant dancing Slinky to a Weimar cabaret to a guy who can push his whole body through a tennis racquet. It is sophisticated and silly in just the right amounts. And it’s uncommonly democratic, since many of the performances are interactive and performers who don’t get venue space can make their own venues.
Then there’s the Folk festival, the Jazz festival, the Blues festival, the Dragon Boat festival, and on and on. Outdoor theatres and outdoor cinemas spring up in parks and parking lots, and you can find 10,000 backyard barbecues on any given night. Not one moment of the blessedly long summer day is wasted.
Some nights, it seems, everyone in the city is a little drunk, on sunshine if nothing stronger, and everyone is laughing.
* The correct answer is d) All of the above.
Sparkle Hayter grew up in Edmonton. She has worked as a journalist, a stand-up comedian and a novelist.