I was fortunate enough to be invited to an organizational meeting tonight for a new Halloween-themed festival here in Edmonton. More than just a festival however, the three principals behind the idea (Darryl Plunkie, Derek Clayton, Christian Nelson) have a vision to establish Edmonton as the Halloween Capital of Canada. I’ll admit that I don’t feel as strongly about Halloween as many of the individuals in attendance tonight do, but I am passionate about my city and I think they’re on to something.
Like many Edmontonians, I hate the word “Deadmonton” as it is often used. It’s entirely negative and disheartening. It’s no surprise that I fell in love with Christian Nelson’s presentation back at Pecha Kucha 2, where he suggested we reclaim the word and use it for good. Tonight’s meeting grew out of Christian exploring that idea with Darryl, Derek, and others. The general idea is to create a Halloween Festival to tie together all of the various events that already take place in the city. It was suggested that the festival be a week long, until Darryl said “it should be 13 days!” He also suggested that the organizing board be called the “Council of E-ville.” The meeting was both productive and fun!
The first step was for everyone to introduce themselves (we had 17 people attend). The group was quite varied, which meant we had all kinds of experience and insight available. Kenn Bur from EEDC hosted the event and kept us on track. We had Ellen Finn from the Civic Events Office at the City of Edmonton, Shirley Lowe from the Old Strathcona Business Association, and John Mahon from the Edmonton Arts Council join us and they all shared their experience on how other festivals have been started and managed. The remainder of the group was made up of individuals in the Halloween industry, and Edmontonians-at-large like me and Debra Ward.
The three principals shared their ideas, and then we went around the group for additional comments. There were lots of great ideas thrown around, and a number of interesting questions were raised. What’s clear is that there’s passion for this event. Some of the ideas I found particularly intriguing included:
- Taste of Deadmonton
- Miss Deadmonton
- Worst Yard Contest
- Horror Theme Music by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
- Some sort of Halloween Blood Drive
There are already many Halloween events that take place in the city of course, such as the Scarecrow Festival, Edmonton Ghost Tours, The Bear’s Halloween Howler, and many more. I think joining forces to share the marketing muscle of the Deadmonton brand is a great idea.
Some of the questions that came up included:
- What kind of festival would it be? John Mahon said there are basically two models. The first is the Fringe/Heritage Festival model, in which the participants are mostly independent and just share the site and/or marketing of the festival. The second is the Folk Fest model, where things are much more controlled. The Halloween Festival would probably be the former.
- Would the event need a dedicated venue?
- Do we need a board? Where does the funding come from? Etc.
Finally, here are a couple comments I found particularly interesting:
“Edmonton has more goth stores than any other place in Canada.” – Rona Anderson
“Winnipeg can try to top The Fringe, but you can’t really top Deadmonton. It’s truly unique.” – Christian Nelson
The next step is to try to digest some of the ideas and excitement that came out tonight, and figure out a way forward. The goal for the first year is really to get the festival established, with a website and some common branding. We can then build atop that foundation.
If you have ideas or would like to get involved, please email HalloweenEdmonton@gmail.com. You can also leave a comment here if you like!
UPDATE: I should have linked to Kerry Diotte’s article on this meeting in the Edmonton Sun. Published on Tuesday, it has a bit more background information.