On The Fringe In Edmonton

They don't call it a fringe festival for nothing. Right now through August 24th, the Edmonton Fringe Festival is taking place in the booming city in northern Alberta, which is pretty much on the fringe of civilization. After Edmonton it's all oil-sand fields and prairie all the way up to the Arctic Ocean. Not a whole bunch of culture emanating from those oil-field roustabouts.

Which is reason enough to make a summer pilgrimage to Edmonton. The city itself is a fine place to explore, as I found out last summer during a trip that way, and lots of people make their way to the Old Strathcona district to watch one of the world's great theater and arts fests. The ten-day festival draws a half-million people to watch a non-stop smorgasbord of entertainment that includes 1,200 shows from 207 theater companies who perform in 27 venues.

Besides lots of great Canadian comedy and cabaret and theater, you can catch acts like "American Squatter" from the Aspen Comedy Works troupe out of Colorado, the Cody Rivers Show from Bellingham, Washington, and "Don't Make Fun of Jesus" from GiggleGirl Productions in New York City. The Big Apple is represented by four theater companies who made the trek to the Great White North; beats a weekend in the Hamptons, I guess.

If I were back there this summer, I'd make a point of eating at the Hardware Grill downtown, grabbing Quebecois fast-food from a lunch truck, and spending half a day wandering the aisles of the truly astounding West Edmonton Mall, which has an indoor waterpark, aquarium and hockey rink to go along with about a million stores.

Talk about an outpost of civilization.