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Kaleido Festival rolls along residential streets

Kaleido Festival brings art, magic and music to the streets of Alberta Ave. now through mid-September. Photo: Eric Kozakiewicz / Epic Photography

What do you do when you can't shut down Alberta Ave. to offer music, art and magic to throngs of area residents and festival-loving Edmontonians? You take it to rooftops, back alleys, parks and up and down residential streets around 118 Ave.

It's how Arts on the Ave is recreating the popular Kaleido Family Arts Festival in the year of COVID-19. This fall, it's called Kaleido on Tour 2020, running until Sept. 13 in the historic Alberta Avenue area (118 Ave between 90-95 Street) with a front porch series, mysterious buskers and sneak peeks--all live, all free.

"You might see an acrobat, dancer or art along the sidewalk, up in a tree or like we've had recently, on the balcony above a grocery store," said Kaleido artistic director Christy Morin.

"This year's theme Here Comes the Sun is a response to our need for performance and art--it's an experiment to re-invent what we've been doing, because COVID has made us all have to do that--but there's great energy and excitement around creating something new."

As not all in this central Edmonton neighbourhood have PCs or iPhones--devices regularly being utilized to bring other festivals and concerts to patrons online this year--Kaleido is literally taking it to the streets. The Front Porch series for example, brings local musicians to people's front yards. Mysterious buskers (Lodestar, Thug Shells, The Dungarees, Littlebirds, Dixieland Jazz Band and more) can be found in pocket parks, rinks and atop Parios Tropical Latin Market. It's all socially-distanced and discourages people from collecting for too long in one spot, said Morin.

"It's a complete, radical re-invention, but artists and the community are on-board. We all want to celebrate safely, so we're telling people they have to have the distance of an elephant or a peacock with its feathers out between each other," she said,

"Edmonton gets behind its festivals, and it's our 15th. We don't have our usual donations and corporate sponsors, so if people want to donate, The Carrot Coffeehouse is the place to go. There's art in the windows and in galleries for purchase, and festival merch you can buy inside too."

The Showcase Weekend, September 11-13, features a Friday night lantern parade (residents are encouraged to hang a lantern from the verandah) and travelling flat-bed trucks moving through side streets in Delton, Alberta Ave., Eastwood, Spruce Ave and Elmwood Park. Festival-goers can head to a pocket park in the neighbourhood for an eight-minute performance from folk musicians, gospel artists and more. Once done, the truck moves on its way to the next stop. To celebrate 15 years of Kaleido, showcase weekend will involve performers and supporters from the past 15 years both in-person and online.

"You won't want to miss the Sunday morning concert. We have a kitchen table on the flatbed for a literal kitchen party, and a Blues/Gospel performance too," Morin said. (The Saturday morning pancake breakfast is also still a go, in takeaway fashion). "Having the festival this way, versus not at all, is a way to keep spirits alive. At this time in the world, creating conversations, making art and celebrating our humanness is probably more important than ever."

Festival-goers will want to check for event details, and follow Kaleido 2020 on Tour on Facebook for the latest.