Edmonton Notes for July 12, 2020

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Whitemud Creek
Whitemud Creek, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Upcoming Events (July 13-19)

The vast majority of upcoming events have been cancelled or postponed. If you’re unsure, just stay home – especially if you’re feeling sick.

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Edmonton Notes for July 5, 2020

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Rainbow over downtown

Upcoming Events (July 6-12)

The vast majority of upcoming events have been cancelled or postponed. If you’re unsure, just stay home – especially if you’re feeling sick.

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Edmonton Notes for June 28, 2020

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • Edmonton surpassed Calgary in active cases of COVID-19 in this week. Currently, 242 of Alberta’s 520 active cases are in the Edmonton zone. #WearAMaskYEG
  • City Council voted unanimously to remove minimum parking requirements from the Zoning Bylaw, making Edmonton the first major Canadian municipality to do so. "Effective July 2, 2020, developers, homeowners and businesses will be able to decide how much on-site parking to provide on their properties based on their particular operations, activities or lifestyle."
  • Edmonton public school trustee Cheryl Johner has resigned after she suggested that refugee students could sometimes be violent. "All they’ve known is violence," she said during a board meeting on Tuesday. "The safety of students is critically important — that other students feel safe as they go to their own school." She suggested school resource officers "act as a deterrent." EPSB chair Trisha Estabrooks called Johner’s remarks racist and said "it’s wrong, and it’s completely unacceptable." At that EPSB meeting, trustees voted unanimously to commission an independent study of the efficacy of the school resource officer program. A motion to immediately remove officers from schools was narrowly defeated.
  • We spoke about Johner’s remarks and resignation on Episode 90 of Speaking Municipally.
  • The Oliver Community League (OCL) has launched the "Uncover Oliver" campaign which calls on the City of Edmonton to initiate "an inclusive co-creation process to discover a new community name" for the neighbourhood currently known as Oliver. Mayor Don Iveson called the OCL’s calls-to-action "thoughtful" and committed to "do our best to facilitate these tangible steps for reconciliation and anti-racism."
  • The City of Edmonton said it will be mowing and trimming grass and weeds more often starting in July in response to frustration over its previous decision to reduce maintenance frequency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Edmonton International Airport said the number of passengers departing has risen from a low of 300 per day in April to about 1,000 per day now. Face masks are now required to enter the building. CEO Tom Ruth said it’ll likely be three years before the airport fully recovers economically from COVID-19. Some good news though: Plant Plus, which manufactures plastic alternatives using plant fibre technology, is establishing a production and distribution facility at EIA.
  • City Council unanimously approved the proposed conversion of the former dormitory building at the Exhibition Lands into bridge housing at a cost of $600,000. The building is expected to be move-in ready by the end of the year.
  • Councillor Scott McKeen intends to ask his colleagues to revisit the e-bike rebate program calling it "a little tone-deaf in the context of a pandemic."
  • Poplar fuzz is piling up along river valley paths and in parks across the city though the amount of fluff seen this year "is actually comparable to what we see most seasons," said Katelynne Webb, community forest leader at the City of Edmonton. “It’s a really healthy and natural process for our urban forest.”
  • A Connor McDavid rookie card has sold for a record US$135,811 at an auction recently.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Food, Health Innovation, the Region, Music, Arts, Business, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups.

Shared Streets

Upcoming Events (June 29-July 5)

The vast majority of upcoming events have been cancelled or postponed. If you’re unsure, just stay home – especially if you’re feeling sick.

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Edmonton Notes for June 21, 2020

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • Edmonton has now surpassed Calgary in active cases of COVID-19 with 238 of Alberta’s 534 active cases in the Edmonton zone. There were just 44 active cases in the Edmonton zone at the start of June.
  • The public hearing on policing will continue on Monday and Wednesday as about half of the registered speakers are still awaiting their turn. Some speakers have called for an overhaul of the City’s anti-racism advisory committee.
  • City Council agreed to pick Indigenous names for the new wards that will be in place for the 2021 election. They’ve asked for the names to be ready in early September.
  • A number of construction projects are on time or ahead of schedule, though the Valley Line LRT is still delayed, reports CBC.
  • Recreation facilities will start to reopen in Edmonton on July 2 though the City warns "there will be necessary and significant changes to how the public will use the facilities and the overall operations."
  • Timed ticket sales were brisk as the Valley Zoo reopened to visitors at 50% capacity on June 15.
  • The first seven spray parks opened this weekend, and the City says all 25 across Edmonton will open in the next two weeks. Locations will be cleaned bi-weekly.
  • Edmonton’s Bündok and Biera made Daily Hive’s list of Canada’s 100 best restaurants of 2020.
  • Journal columnist Keith Gerein speculated on what may happen in the 2021 civic election. "Should Iveson decide to seek a third term, he would be the presumptive favourite and would undoubtedly scare off some would-be contenders — though the race is still likely to be more competitive than the landslides Iveson won in 2013 and 2017."
  • "Edmonton has everything going for it but location, location, location," reports Sportsnet regarding the NHL hub city bid. "We know, Edmontonians don’t want to hear this."
  • WestJet announced its July schedule, with all routes originating in Edmonton bound for Canadian destinations.
  • The Polaris Prize long list includes two Edmonton bands: nêhiyawak and Wares.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Food, Health Innovation, the Region, Music, Arts, Business, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups.

Glorious Dandelions
Glorious Dandelions, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Upcoming Events (June 22-28)

The vast majority of upcoming events have been cancelled or postponed. If you’re unsure, just stay home – especially if you’re feeling sick.

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Edmonton Notes for June 14, 2020

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • City Council considered a multi-pronged motion on Wednesday that could lead to a $16.3 million reduction to the Edmonton Police budget in 2021, reports the Edmonton Journal. Police chief Dale McFee defended the current level of funding for the service in relation to the workload.
  • “We’ve hired diversity in an extremely aggressive manner,” said police chief Dale McFee cautioning that budget cuts would hurt efforts to increase the diversity of the police force. “When you hire in a collective agreement … if you reduce your numbers, it’s last in, first out.”
  • The Downtown Business Association has accepted the resignation of executive director Ian O’Donnell, effective immediately. "I fully and completely apologize for using ‘ALM’, a term that is associated with hate and racism. I was wrong to use it and am sorry for the hurt that it has caused," wrote O’Donnell.
  • Troy and I spoke with Sahr Saffa on Episode 89 of Speaking Municipally. I found his perspective on the events of the past couple of weeks incredibly thought-provoking.
  • This week, City Council unanimously approved a short-term housing plan that will turn a former jockey dormitory on the Northlands site into temporary bridge housing, reports the Edmonton Journal. "I’m done asking for other people to step up and help and I’m not going to use the provincial government’s abdication of leadership within their jurisdiction on this anymore, to justify the city waiting to make substantial change around supportive housing towards the goal of ending homelessness," said Mayor Don Iveson.
  • Council also approved the Edmonton Economic Recovery Grant policy. The intake period for phase 1 is expected to open on Monday, June 15. Businesses can apply for matching microgrants of up to $5,000.
  • The City of Edmonton has laid off another 60 employees this week in positions ranging from administrative to information technology to planning, reports CBC News.
  • Alberta moved to Stage 2 of the Province’s relaunch plan on Friday. I’m not sure how I feel about this.
  • The City of Edmonton is distributing 500,000 masks at four transit centres and three LRT stations starting Monday, June 15. Free masks will be handed out, upon request, daily between 7am and 7pm. Transit fares and front-door boarding will resume on Monday, June 15 as well.
  • "The reopening of facilities is very complex and given the financial impacts of the pandemic, some services will not return this season," said David Aitken, chair of the City’s COVID-19 task team, in response to the provincial launch update. The funicular is reopening on Monday, June 15 with operation from 7am to 9pm and ridership limited to two people at a time, and the Valley Zoo also reopens on Monday, June 15 with additional signage, timed tickets, and capacity limited to 1,500 people.
  • The Edmonton Public School Board is cutting 611 full-time positions and suggested more cuts are still to come, reports the Edmonton Journal. “When you continue to squeeze, what’s affected are the classrooms,” said board chair Trisha Estabrooks.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Food, Health Innovation, the Region, Music, Arts, Business, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups.

Jun 12, 2020 COVID-19 update 22498
Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Friday, June 12, 2020, photo by Alberta Newsroom

Upcoming Events (June 15-21)

The vast majority of upcoming events have been cancelled or postponed. If you’re unsure, just stay home – especially if you’re feeling sick.

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Edmonton Notes for June 7, 2020

More than 10,000 people showed up at the Alberta legislature on Friday night to declare that Black Lives Matter and to peacefully protest racism, white supremacy, and police brutality. They marched into the night, with constant cheers and horns heard throughout downtown.

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • "Edmonton is not immune to racism," wrote Mayor Don Iveson in a statement on anti-racism protests. "Racism exists, and does persist, here in Edmonton – and we must remain committed to fight racism, but this starts with acknowledging it."
  • In a video posted to social media, Edmonton police chief Dale McFee addressed the death of George Floyd calling it "criminal" and said "there needs to be accountability."
  • A form letter from Black Lives Matter Edmonton that calls on City Council to divest from policing and invest in community has been signed more than 7,500 times.
  • After 11 weeks, the Emergency Advisory Committee decided not to renew the State of Local Emergency (SOLE) on Thursday afternoon. "Choosing not to renew the SOLE is as a result of the low number of active cases and hospitalizations, and the City’s ability to manage the current state without the declaration in place," reads the news release.
  • City Council voted 8-5 to prioritize the Capital Line South LRT extension ahead of Metro Line North. "We are decades behind schedule of building out LRT in the city or mass transit," said Councillor Andrew Knack. "We need proper mass transit to all parts of the city — that is what is needed in large urban centres like Edmonton." His motion to continue pressing the provincial and federal governments for predictable funding was approved.
  • The City of Edmonton has launched a series of environmental rebate programs to encourage energy efficient upgrades and electric transportation. Edmontonians can save up to $4,000 towards the installation of a solar electric system, and 30% of the cost of an e-bike, to a maximum of $750.
  • The city has delivered 350 pop-up garden plots to 29 sites this year to help residents start gardening, reports CBC News. "The city is providing the planter boxes and soil to each selected site while gardeners must supply their own plants, seeds and tools."
  • "A public opinion poll from the Alberta government indicates 79% of those polled support Edmonton hosting some Stanley Cup playoff games under conditions approved by the chief medical officer of health," reports Global News. In Edmonton itself, 57% of respondents strongly support the idea while 21% somewhat support it.
  • Three Antonov AN-124 planes, among the largest in the world, arrived at the Edmonton International Airport as cargo charters this week. “We look forward to welcoming back more passengers in the future but until that time cargo flights are bringing needed traffic and activity to EIA and the entire Edmonton region,” said EIA president and CEO Tom Ruth in a news release. “We plan to keep building on the relationships we’re establishing for many years to come, to the benefit of our entire region.”
  • Bird and Lime deployed hundreds of e-scooters in the city this week. They’re supposed to be corralled and cleaned daily. There are lots on and around 104 Street and I’m a bit surprised at how many people are riding them already. Roll Scooters, which had been planning to launch in Edmonton this spring, told the Edmonton Journal that COVID-19 forced it to change plans. They’re hoping to launch later this summer.
  • Parking fees in EPark zones and City-owned parkades will be reinstated on Monday, June 8. Hourly rates in approximately 80% of EPark zones will be reduced.
  • The Art Gallery of Alberta will reopen to the public on June 11 with access via pre-booked tickets.
  • Laser City, which was forced to close in mid-March, has launched an online Minecraft day camp that runs for two hours a day.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Food, Health Innovation, the Region, Music, Arts, Business, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups.

This week, Speaking Municipally surpassed 50,000 downloads! Thanks to everyone who has supported our show. Check out Episode 88 for more on what happened this week.

E-scooters being cleaned
E-scooters being cleaned

Upcoming Events (June 8-14)

The vast majority of upcoming events have been cancelled or postponed. If you’re unsure, just stay home – especially if you’re feeling sick.

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Edmonton Notes for May 24, 2020

It started out wet, but the weekend turned into a beautiful one. We were busy in the garden and went for a walk on Sunday in the sun to show Emily the Talus Dome. There were an awful lot of people out enjoying the weather, though everyone did seem to be obeying the physical distancing rules. We certainly didn’t see anything close to what happened at Trinity Bellwoods in Toronto. Instead, Edmontonians had to be reminded to stay off the river and away from the river banks (Edmonton Fire Rescue Services had to rescue a dog on Sunday morning). Stay safe!

Talus Dome

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • The relaunch is underway in Edmonton. On Friday, "playgrounds, skateparks, tennis, pickleball, volleyball and basketball courts, disc golf, outdoor fitness parks and athletic tracks" started to reopen. EPark fees will be reinstated starting June 8 and the Edmonton Valley Zoo is slated to reopen on June 15.
  • The City also relaxed rules for new temporary patios, sidewalk cafes, and outdoor retail operations.
  • Mayor Don Iveson said in an interview with CBC News that the City may be forced to shut down public transit for the summer due to the financial impacts of COVID-19. "The idea of spending less on it in the warmer months so that we have more to spend in the colder months is just one possible scenario," he said. Ridership is down 70-80% and the City projects a net loss of more than $33 million for transit due to the pandemic. On Twitter, Iveson clarified that "shutting down transit would be an absolute LAST resort for us."
  • “I can’t imagine a better place to come to than the home of the Edmonton Oilers or this province that has done so much for the sport of hockey and for the NHL for decades,” said Premier Jason Kenney, responding to questions about the NHL’s plans to resume hockey. “It just makes so much sense, so we will be making a significant pitch.” Mayor Don Iveson sent a letter to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that said "by bringing hockey back to a smaller market, the NHL would generate a significant boost to a great hockey city that has long laboured to create conditions to support the game."
  • Troy and I discussed the possible transit changes and the NHL hub city possibility on the latest episode of Speaking Municipally.
  • Mayor Don Iveson and the mayors of most Edmonton-area municipalities have sent a letter to Premier Jason Kenney asking for help in securing federal funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Global News. “As we look ahead to the reopening and relaunch phases, now is the time to ensure municipalities are not grappling with financial uncertainty,” the letter said.
  • The Edmonton International Airport (EIA) said it has been forced to reduce its workforce by up to 40% which is up to 100 positions.
  • The City of Edmonton has mailed more than 400,000 property tax notices to Edmonton property owners. "The payment deadline is June 30 but, this year, late-payment penalties on unpaid taxes will not be charged until September 1." Notices are also available online.
  • Home sales in Edmonton recorded over MLS systems dropped by 46.6% in April compared to March, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.
  • Baseball Edmonton, a group of 20 people including former Edmonton Oiler Randy Gregg who serves as managing director, has been awarded the 10-year lease (beginning April 2021) to operate RE/MAX Field, reports Global News. In a statement, the City of Edmonton said, “We are supportive of the group’s vision for the facility, its commitment to advancing baseball in Edmonton and continuing to ensure community access to RE/MAX Field.”
  • Richard Skermer, president and CEO of RWE Events and producer of the Edmonton Airshow, has been awarded the J.A.D. McCurdy Trophy from the Royal Canadian Air Force Association, "in recognition of outstanding and praiseworthy achievement by a Canadian in the field of civil aviation."
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Food, Health Innovation, the Region, Music, Arts, Business, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups.

Upcoming Events (May 25-31)

The vast majority of upcoming events have been cancelled or postponed. If you’re unsure, just stay home – especially if you’re feeling sick.

Thanks for reading! Want to support my blog? Buy me a coffee!

Edmonton Notes for May 3, 2020

As of May 3 at 3:30pm, there are 5,766 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, including 504 in the Edmonton zone. There have been 95 deaths in Alberta due to the disease.

The Government of Alberta’s page on COVID-19 has the most up-to-date information for our province. Anyone who has health concerns or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should complete an online COVID-19 self-assessment. The new ABTraceTogether app might protect you from being unknowingly exposed and possibly spreading the disease.

Ice District

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • City Council voted 9-4 to approve a shift in taxes from businesses to homeowners. The 2020 tax levy increase has been set at 2.5% for residential property owners and 0% for non-residential property owners. Combined with the reduction in provincial education taxes this year, the net effect is a 0% tax increase for residential property owners and a 2% decrease for non-residential property owners. Councillors Nickel, Banga, Paquette, and Knack voted against the change in tax share.
  • "A city relies on its businesses to drive employment and the economy — as well as our quality of life," wrote Mayor Don Iveson in a blog post about the operating budget decision. "We want to help our businesses now so we can protect Edmonton’s economic future."
  • Another 900 City of Edmonton employees will be temporarily laid off due to the financial impacts of COVID-19. Nearly half of the affected staff are transit operators. “How the City responds and recovers will determine when and how we bring employees back,” said interim city manager Adam Laughlin.
  • The provincial government announced a phased relaunch plan this week. Some non-urgent surgeries will resume May 4, as will services from dental and other healthcare workers. Parking lots in parks, boat launches in provincial parks, and golf courses opened this weekend. "Progress to Stage 1 will occur once health measures are achieved to the satisfaction of the government based on the advice of the chief medical officer of health, as early as May 14."
  • The City of Edmonton said it will be reviewing its response measures in light of the provincial announcement. “While the relaunch plan gives us hope for the future, it’s important to remember that this transition won’t be linear and could last for months,” said interim city manager Adam Laughlin.
  • The City of Edmonton restarted its TLC for LRT initiative today (May 3). McKernan/Belgravia LRT Station will be closed until July. Construction at Stadium LRT Station will begin in mid-May and is expected to be complete by Jan. 2022.
  • Food trucks will be allowed to operate in Edmonton "with added requirements in place to ensure public health and safety is maintained," the City of Edmonton announced. Hot dog vendors and other sidewalk carts won’t be allowed.
  • Residents in the Crestwood area have made a large-scale Monopoly replica with sidewalk chalk, and it is attracting spectators from across Edmonton.
  • Mobility data from Apple comparing changes in walking activity in 89 major world cities suggests that Edmonton is an outlier in getting out for a walk. "While everywhere around the world saw that big fall-off in mid-March, no other cities have rebounded like Edmonton," said Blake Shaffer, assistant professor at the University of Calgary. Warmer temperatures are likely the reason behind the increased activity.
  • "For 25 years, a succession of owners have propped up the 399-passenger sternwheeler that plies the North Saskatchewan River. It may never be a moneymaker, but for the current owner, keeping it afloat is victory enough," reports Macleans.ca on the Edmonton Riverboat.
  • "The Edmonton Queen is actually a living reminder, like so much else in Alberta’s cities, of Alberta’s pre-Ralph Klein history of demented economic incentives and grandiose overbuilding," wrote Colby Cosh at the National Post.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Food, Health Innovation, the Region, Music, Arts, Business, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups.

Upcoming Events (May 4-10)

The vast majority of upcoming events have been cancelled or postponed, though an increasing number are moving online. If you’re unsure, just stay home – especially if you’re feeling sick.

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Edmonton Notes for April 26, 2020

As of April 26 at 4:45pm, there are 4,480 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, including 479 in the Edmonton zone. There have been 73 deaths in Alberta due to the disease.

The Government of Alberta’s page on COVID-19 has the most up-to-date information for our province. Anyone who has health concerns or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should complete an online COVID-19 self-assessment.

Valley LRT line Edmonton Alberta
Valley Line LRT, photo by Jason Woodhead

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Upcoming Events (April 27-May 3)

The vast majority of upcoming events have been cancelled or postponed, though an increasing number are moving online. If you’re unsure, just stay home – especially if you’re feeling sick.

Thanks for reading! Want to support my blog? Buy me a coffee!

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 49

Edmonton’s 49th DemoCamp took place on Thursday night via YouTube Live. It was the first DemoCamp in Edmonton to be held virtually.

If you’re new to DemoCamp, here’s what it’s all about:

“DemoCamp brings together developers, creatives, entrepreneurs and investors to share what they’ve been working on and to find others in the community interested in similar topics. For presenters, it’s a great way to get feedback on what you’re building from peers and the community, all in an informal setting. Started back in 2008, DemoCamp Edmonton has steadily grown into one of the largest in the country, with over 200 people attending each event.”

The rules were the same for this virtual edition: "7 minutes to demo real, working products, followed by a few minutes for questions, and no slides allowed."

Here’s my Twitter thread for the event. We had five demos, in order of appearance:

First up was Stream.ML which offers a marketplace for learning models. Users can use the site to build their own models by uploading and tagging data, and they can also deploy those models to the cloud or on-premise. The marketplace enables buying and selling of those models. There are currently 168 models on the site, 15 of which are ready for purchase. Back in early March, Stream.ML was accepted into the SVG Ventures THRIVE Accelerator. Stream.ML runs on Microsoft Azure.

The next three demos were all from CODEVID-19, the world’s first global pandemic hackathon.

First was Charity Shop Exchange, a UK-based platform that applies the increasingly popular subscription box model to charity shops (of which there are more than 10,000 in the UK). Here in Canada, we usually call those thrift stores (places like Goodwill or Value Village). On Charity Shop Exchange, you input the things you like to watch and read, then the site will buy those from the store and deliver them to you. It’s a way to support isolation.

Next was Trusted Locals, a platform that helps locals share information about their current on-site situation "in an organised and audited way." Users can submit posts such as where they saw toilet paper available. Then other users can confirm or disconfirm it, which informs a confidence score for the post. The idea is to help others around you with more trustworthy information. The developers are also looking to scrape social media sites like Twitter for information.

Next up was Where Have I Been which lets users record all of the places they’ve visited on a day-to-day basis. Check-in apps aren’t new, but what this one lets you do in addition is see how risky the places you visited were. If a user self-reports that they have COVID-19 symptoms, the app will notify other users who visited the same places in the last two weeks. You can also view high risk locations in your area on a map.

The final demo was Prototype Hubs which offers a platform to connect clients with 3D printing and CNC cutting services. The idea is to streamline the process of getting quotes and interacting with multiple manufacturers. And for those with the equipment, they can offer their services to attract new customers and revenue. The service is hosted in Amazon Web Services (AWS).

I think Edmonton’s first virtual DemoCamp went incredibly well. Aside from a minor hiccup at the start, the tech worked smoothly. The presenters did a great job, and Adam and the team from Startup handled the question portion very well.

You can re-watch the entire thing on YouTube:

DemoCamp Edmonton 49 on YouTube

Instead of in-person drinks following the demos, this time everyone was invited to join virtual drinks on the Startup TNT Discord channel.

Here are the events and other announcements that were mentioned in-between demos:

  • Business Model 101 workshops are now free and virtual! Startup Edmonton is currently offering the program twice per week.
  • CODEVID-19 is looking for more than 50 judges to help consider entries starting in May.
  • Prelight is also free and running online. Applications are being accepted for upcoming cohorts.
  • Lots of the regular tech meetups that take place at Startup Edmonton have also moved virtually.

Be sure to check out the Tech Roundup for the latest headlines & happenings in Edmonton’s technology community every Tuesday.

If you’ve got something to show, apply to demo at a future event.

Next up is a milestone, DemoCamp Edmonton 50. That’s slated to take place in the fall. See you then, hopefully in person!