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Calgary’s Lilac Festival returns this June

The Lilac Festival, Calgary’s unofficial start to summer, is returning after a hiatus of two years due to the pandemic.

The multi-cultural festival of arts, entertainment, food, and shopping is planning to celebrate 33 years in Calgary on June 5. It is also returning to its traditional 4 Street SW home.

“We’re working really hard to connect the dots, and put everything together so that we can have a renewed sense of festival pride in our city, and remind all of the citizens what a wonderful experience the Lilac Festival is to shake off your winter blues and experience people in the community again,” said Shannon McNally, artistic director for the Lilac Festival.

Organizers have put out a call for vendors and entertainers to apply. In previous years, hundreds of musicians have performed on the six festival stages, alongside hundreds more maker and artist vendors selling their wares alongside the businesses of the 4 Street BIA.

Deadlines for entertainers to apply is March 15. There is no set deadline on vendor registration, but typically spots have sold out by the beginning of April.

“It’s a very popular event for vendors and small business, so it’s always good to be the early bird,” said McNally.

Final details on the list of entertainers chosen to perform, and the list of vendors participating, will be released on the Lilac Festival website closer to June.

A little bit of something for everyone

McNally said that the festival has been able to connect the wider Calgary community to local artists and businesses for over 30 years.

She said that the festival has been a part of incubating the local arts and culture scene, along with small businesses.

“I think there’s a lot of ways that we’re showcasing our artists and local talents, really bridging communities by showcasing all the various cultural backgrounds and demonstrations of those, as well through dance and music,” she said.

“It’s just really a multicultural experience for both commerce and the arts.”

This year the festival is expecting a wider range of small businesses and art vendors.

“The pandemic has demonstrated how many side hustles and home-based businesses have been started over these past few years,” said McNally.

“I think there’s going to be a real surge in the number of home-based businesses, and artisans, and makers who work with their hands and have created something really beautiful, and they want to get out into the public and share their ability and what they’ve created,” she said.

In the mix will also be local restaurants and bars along 4 Street. Festival-goers can expect expanded patios and local cuisine menus for the event.

“It’s a bit a discovery festival in the way that you might pick up a nice new gift for a loved one, and you might experience a new musical act that you’ve never heard before,” said McNally.

“It’s really just a day to just get out, get downtown and be with the community.”