Recap: Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #17

Edmonton’s seventeenth Pecha Kucha Night was held on Saturday evening at the Winspear Centre downtown. With nearly 1000 people in attendance, it was one of our city’s biggest PKNs yet. I kept thinking back to the first-ever PKN in Edmonton, which took place in the lobby of the Winspear Centre back in 2008 – it’s pretty incredible how much has changed over the last five years!

In a break from past PKNs, this Designing Downtown edition featured speakers from across the country. The theme? New ways to think about designing and developing our city cores. Here’s what Designing Downtown is all about:

Designing Downtown is a movement to transform downtowns founded by Progress Unlimited, MADE, and Edmonton’s NextGen. Designing Downtown is a vehicle for inter-city exchange for partnerships that seek to enrich and advance the conversations and actions we take to shape downtowns as spaces for everyone. Designing Downtown is an experiment and exchange; an opportunity to create dialogue that celebrates & critiques; and a space to be a fixture in and designer of the urban experience.

designing downtown

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN17:

  1. Johanna Hurme, Occupy
  2. Sophie Mankowski, Architectural Translations: From Memory to Music
  3. Janice Abbott, Atira Women’s Resource Society
  4. Dalton Higgins, Hip Hop World
  5. Curtis Olson, Designing a Creative City
  6. Micheline Clouard, Place & Identity
  7. Simon Taylor, Harsh Optimism
  8. Kamala Todd, Indigenize Our Urban Eyes
  9. Waye Mason, Urban Halifax Rebounding

We were also treated to a live podcast recording of 99% Invisible with host and creator Roman Mars. He opened the show with a segment on how buildings tell stories, and he closed with a piece on city flags.

Pecha Kucha Night 17

For the most part I really enjoyed the presentations, partially because they were a return to “classic” PKN with a slant toward architecture and design. That said, I did find it someone disappointing that a few of the presenters relied on paper notes. Fumbling around with paper on stage is just awkward, but more importantly, it prevents the speaker’s passion from coming across. These are all talened, experienced individuals who know a lot about their topics – paper shouldn’t be needed for six minutes and forty seconds.

Johanna was up first and she talked about fighting the ambivalence of design. “There is power in the collective,” she told us. I found Sophie’s presentation a little difficult to follow, but ultimately she was talking about creating bridges between artists and architects. Her project, Portrait Sonore, is a collection of sound walks that guide you through cities, “revealing their architecture and their history in a lively and poetic manner.” Janice used her time to tell us about the innovative housing project Atira built in Vancouver’s downtown eastside using shipping containers. Last up before the intermission was Dalton, who provided us with the most upbeat and random presentation of the evening. While his energy was infectious, his message was a little less clear.

First up after the intermission was Curtis, who talked to us about some of the interesting projects he has undertaken in Saskatoon. He finished with an overturned car used as a garden, something the crowd seemed to really enjoy! Micheline spoke about some of her work in Montreal, and how it connects humans with nature. Simon talked about the school he worked on way up north in Cambridge Bay. It has become the central gathering place for the town, so he told us that “downtown can happen anywhere” (I disagree – there’s more to “downtown” than just being the central gathering place). Kamala spoke passionately about recognizing the indigenous narratives of our urban settings, using Vancouver as the focal point. The final presenter of the evening was Waye from Halifax, who shared some of the exciting changes that have been happening that city.

Pecha Kucha Night 17

I love hearing about interesting uses for things like shipping containers, so I really enjoyed Janice’s talk. Having grown up in Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, I was naturally drawn to Simon’s talk on the school in Cambridge Bay. I think Curtis had one of the strongest presentations, with great visuals and a tight narrative.

Though Roman’s two segments did not fit with the PKN format, I thought they were a great addition to the evening. His style is just so inviting! There were a lot of folks on Twitter who said they were immediately subscribing to the podcast as a result. His closing segment focused on city flags. Roman is a fan of Chicago’s flag, and he walked us through some of the do’s and don’ts of flag design. Keep it simple, avoid words or seals, etc. In case you were wondering, this is Edmonton’s flag. There was quite a bit of laughter when he put the slide up because it breaks most of the don’ts! Roman also earned loud cheers and applause for calling Canada’s flag the best one out there.

Instead of having speakers from Edmonton in the lineup, two videos featuring a number of Edmontonians passionate about downtown were shown. Here’s the first vignette:

Here’s the second vignette:

In contrast with the last PKN, I very much felt like a member of the target audience for PKN17. There were a lot of familiar faces in the large crowd, which suggests the organizers did a great job of reaching out to previous attendees to get them to return. Equally, I kept running into people who had never been to Pecha Kucha before, so it’s great to see that the series continues to reach new communities.

In addition to the presentations, there were also some great activities in the lobby. Guests could take part in a collaborative mural, check out the LEGO display, get their photo taken in WinterCity’s winter patio, and much more.

Pecha Kucha Night 17

Prior to the main event, Makescape took place in Centennial Plaza behind the Stanley Milner Library. Featuring food trucks, a live stream of the presentations, and Bench Talks, it was a neat complement to PKN. I missed the bench talks unfortunately, but I love the concept!

Kudos to Lisa Baroldi, the driving force behind PKN17 and Designing Downtown, on a fantastic event! I know it takes a big team of volunteers and the support of many sponsors to pull off an event like PKN, but you also need strong leadership. Well done to all involved!

You can see a few more photos from the evening here. Keep an eye on @EdmNextGen for details on upcoming events!

Recap: Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #16

pkn16Edmonton’s sixteenth Pecha Kucha Night was held tonight at the Citadel Theatre downtown. I did my first Pecha Kucha talk at PKN7 back in 2010 which was held in the same venue, so it was nice to be back without the nervous feeling that you get before presenting! The vast majority of the not-sold-out crowd were newcomers who had never been to Pecha Kucha before, judging by the show of hands at the start.

In case you’re not familiar with Pecha Kucha, here’s what it’s all about:

PKN features presentations on local ideas, projects and musings in the 20 slides at 20 seconds per slide format made popular by worldwide by Klein Dytham Architecture. More than 150 presentations have been given at Edmonton Pecha Kucha Nights to date on wide-ranging topics, from lighting up Edmonton’s bridges to in vitro meat and everything in between.

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN16:

  1. Emerson Csorba, Make Something for Single Mothers
  2. Myles Curry, Grasscycling & Community Based Social Marketing
  3. Mark Connolly, Downtown Story
  4. Dan Jacob, The Future of Civic Engagement
  5. Andrew Whistance-Smith, What’s In a Smile?
  6. Alistair Henning & Gary Garrison, McCauley Then and Now
  7. Anna McRobbie, Open Space Technology & Unconferences
  8. Mara Erickson, Conservation Caravan: Going Beyond the BBQ
  9. Matthew Stepanic, Mythic Power
  10. Kuen Tang, The Ha Ling Project

I thought all of the presenters tonight did a great job. Everyone spoke clearly and for the most part confidently. There was a pretty good variety in terms of content too, with everything from climbing a mountain to teeth.

Pecha Kucha Night 16

Emerson kicked things off talking about SMART – Single Mothers Achieving Results Together. It’s an organization he is launching with his mother, focused on providing a space for single moms to learn from, collaborate with, and support one another. Next up was Myles from the City of Edmonton who told us all about grasscycling. During the summer, about 40% of all waste collected in Edmonton is grass. If everyone grasscycled, the emissions saved would be equivalent to taking 4,329 cars off the road. Mark from CBC used his time to talk about their new interactive web project called Downtown Story. They’ve got a collection of data and stories and invite you to take part. Dan was fourth and he talked about Urban Pulse, a new online platform for civic engagement that he’s building with Sean Healy. I liked the way he introduced it, with a story about Sean’s desire to better communicate with the City. Last up before the intermission was Andrew, who did a very entertaining talk on teeth. He connected the golden ratio and explained what we notice when looking at someone’s teeth.

Pecha Kucha Night 16

After the break, Alistair and Gary kicked things off with a talk on an upcoming book about McCauley. I’m such a sucker for local history, so I quite enjoyed hearing about some of the stories. Anna was up next to tell us about open spaces, unconferences, and Mosaic Minds. If you’ve ever been to an unconference you’ll know they don’t have an agenda, the law of two feet rules, etc. Mara was perhaps the strongest speaker of the evening, and she told us about Operation Grassland Community to the south. She encouraged everyone to ask not just where their beef comes from, but what it took to get it there. The penultimate talk was by Matthew, and I think it might have been the most powerful of the evening. He shared his story with us with a nice mix of heartfelt and funny moments. He told us that “every story has mythic power.” Our final presenter was Kuen, who shared the story of how along with the help of her co-workers she became the first quadriplegic to climb the Ha Ling mountain. It too was at times funny and at times serious, and inspirational throughout.

I think my favorite talk was Andrew’s. It was unexpected, educational, and entertaining. More than any of the others, it got people chit-chatting!

Tonight I came to the realization that I’m no longer the target audience for Pecha Kucha (and probably haven’t been for a while, honestly). I wish it could be all ideas and less promotions and launches, but I don’t think the majority feel that way. Judging by the amount of applause tonight, I think most people in attendance really enjoyed hearing about the various projects. After all, why shouldn’t it be a venue for nextgeners to learn more about what others are doing? There’s no rule that says you can’t talk about your own stuff at Pecha Kucha. I guess I just like the notion of a platform to throw out a controversial idea to get people talking, where the only benefit to the presenter is the conversation. But maybe that’s not the role of Pecha Kucha in Edmonton.

Pecha Kucha Night 16

Even though we’re halfway into the month already, Mayor Mandel was on hand tonight to proclaim June as NextGen Month. He had some really kind things to say about Edmonton’s NextGen, and said he felt confident that no matter what happens in October, nextgeners will speak their minds.

The next Pecha Kucha Night in Edmonton is actually going to be a pan-Canadian event featuring twelve speakers from across the country. The theme is downtown, and the event will take place on October 5. With an anticipated audience of 1,700, it’s going to be a big deal!  You can learn more at Designing Downtown.

Stay tuned to @EdmNextGen on Twitter for other upcoming events and have a look back at the #yegpkn hashtag for thoughts on this evening’s presentations.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #14

Edmonton’s fourteenth Pecha Kucha Night was held tonight at the Myer Horowitz Theatre on the University of Alberta campus. It looked like it was going to be a smaller crowd tonight, and though not quite a sell-out, the theatre did fill up just in time for the presentations! There were six women presenting tonight, the first time since PKN4 that women have outnumbered men on stage (I mention it only because many folks noticed the split tonight, and recent PKNs have indeed featured predominately male presenters).

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN14:

  1. Dave Mowat, Light it Up, #yeg!
  2. Sunniva Van, Ride to Learn
  3. Pamela Colleen, The Universal Language: and No, It’s Not Love
  4. Wang Yip, Design Is…
  5. Shawn Kanungo, I Love the Spelling Bee
  6. Renee Vaugeois & Chelsea Freeborn, Imagine a Dream
  7. Jacqui Fraser, A Split Second
  8. Daniel Schneider, That John Denver is Full of S@#*
  9. David Zip, 3D Workflows for Historical Refacading
  10. Brittney Le Blanc, Bragging is Good

Alberta’s Minister of Human Services and Government House Leader Dave Hancock was slated to speak tonight but had to cancel at the last minute.

On the whole I’d say tonight’s slate of presentations was better than average. The presenters were all new to presenting at PKN, and I thought everyone did a great job! There was a good mix of newcomers in the audience, and more than a handful of people who had been to five or more PKNs. Only a few of us have been to every one though!

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #14

Dave kicked things off with a talk about light. Light makes people happy, he told us. He showed examples of some of our favorite cities from around the world, including New York and Paris, with their recognizable structures all beautifully lit up at night. He then showed Edmonton’s bridges at night, all very dark, and none that you would see on a postcard. He added some light to the Groat, High Level, and Low Level bridges to get us thinking about what could be. He then exited the stage on crutches that lit up! It was a really strong start to the evening.

Next up was Sunniva who shared some great stories from Ride To Learn. Very inspiring and strong images too. Pamela took us through the universal language – that would be music, not love! She seemed to have a strong dislike for heavy metal, mentioning a few times that plants forced to listen to Metallica for too long would soon die. It was a very thoughtful talk, and definitely made me think more about how the music I listen to has an impact on what I’m doing. Wang was fourth, and he talked all about the power of design. His talk was sort of the prototypical Pecha Kucha talk, and I mean that in a good way. He showed a variety of designs and encouraged everyone to think about what design means to them. The highlight slide was a design for a divorce lawyer’s business card that featured a perforation down the middle.

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #14

Shawn gave the final talk before the intermission, and I think it’s safe to say he brought the house down! It was smart, funny, and he delivered it with such enthusiasm and stage presence. If there were ever a “Pecha Kucha All-Stars” in Edmonton, Shawn’s would no doubt make the cut. I won’t do it justice, so just watch it:

I also totally love that he was inspired by Omar’s wonderful talk on cats from PKN13:

First up after the break was the tag team of Renee and Chelsea. They had a cellist join them on stage and they delivered their talk over the music. It was a good concept, but it really didn’t work. I also thought their talk could have done with some focus. Jacqui was up next with a very thought-provoking talk that touched on everything from why some colors are used for certain things to why the Fibonacci sequence is so powerful. Daniel had the eighth talk of the night, a cleverly crafted talk about why he loves being a country boy. It was a bit slow starting, but finished strong. I loved the hand-drawn images that illustrated most of the talk! David had the penultimate slot, and talked about historical refacading. He didn’t touch as much on the 3D workflows part as I thought he might, but he did certainly point out some intriguing architectural observations. For instance, he noted that Starbucks does a great job of making its locations look as though they have been in the neighbourhood for decades (as opposed to say a McDonald’s where each location looks the same on the outside).

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #14

The final talk of the night was the much anticipated presentation from Brittney. I didn’t know what to expect based on the title “Bragging is Good” but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a call to action for Edmontonians to speak up about the great things we have in our city. I am not a fan of the giant baseball bat on 118th Avenue, but Brittney is, and she speaks up about it (and notes that it spins!). I also like that she touched on the importance of going from “should” to actually doing something. It’s easy to say something should be done, and much more difficult to actually do it. Here is Brittney’s talk:

Like I said, everyone did a great job tonight, but my favorite has to be Shawn’s. Based on my completely unscientific read of audience reaction in the room and on Twitter, my guess is I’m not alone in feeling that way either!

Edmonton’s NextGen received a lot of complaints about the service charges that Prime Box Office charged for tickets. I was even charged $3 per ticket when purchasing at the door. NextGen was not happy about the charges either, but couldn’t do anything about it as PBO is the exclusive ticket retailer for the venue. If you want to complain, get in touch with Prime Box Office and the Myer Horowitz Theatre. This was the third PKN at the Myer Horowitz (the only repeat venue) and while the size of the audience has greatly reduced the number of potential venues, perhaps it was the last.

Our hosts tonight were Doug McLean and Karen Unger, and they did a nice job of keeping us on track while adding a dash of humor. As has become customary, the Edmonton Journal was once again livestreaming the event. Major props to Ryan Jackson for an amazing job and for getting all of the videos uploaded to YouTube before the event even ended!

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #14

Stay tuned to @EdmNextGen on Twitter and check out the website for updates on PKN and other events. Also note there’s a new hashtag in use: “#pkn14 is just one night, #yegpkn is forever.” See you at PKN15 in March 2013!

You can see more photos of tonight’s event here, and check out all the videos here. You can read about past Pecha Kucha Nights in Edmonton here.

Recap: DIYalogue Talks Food

Last night Sharon and I were really excited to be part of DIYalogue Talks Food, the latest event organized by Edmonton’s NextGen. A few dozen people gathered on the Wooftop Patio at The Black Dog on Whyte for a speed-dating style opportunity to learn about Edmonton’s growing local food scene.

Looking for a collaborative space to chew the fat with Edmonton’s local food luminaries? DIYalogue Talks Food connects Edmonton’s established culinary entrepreneurs with local foodies, aspiring chefs, and backyard gardeners in 15-minute small group mini-dates. DIYalogue convenes communities of interest and explores the potential for individual success in the creative industries through unique partnerships and community support.

The speed mentors included:

DIYalogue Talks Food

The mentors paired up, and for the first hour or so, attendees moved from group to group. Sharon and I mostly talked about What the Truck?! but she did field a bunch of questions about her blog as well. Some of our favorite questions of the evening:

  • Are the food trucks mostly run by existing restaurants? There’s a mix right now. Drift is a good example of a truck that started as a truck (though they wanted to start a restaurant originally) and The Act is a good example of a restaurant that now has a truck as well.
  • What does Edmonton’s food scene lack? I said a brunch culture with diners that people will line up at and Sharon agreed and added southern comfort food.
  • What can be done to make Edmonton a better place for food trucks? Read this post.
  • Aside from Tres Carnales and Corso 32, what’s hot? Three Boars!
  • When is the next What the Truck?! event? August, stay tuned!

No food-themed event is complete without something delicious to eat, so it was awesome to have Filistix on hand. They prepared a Moroccan vegetarian tagine – it was delicious! Everyone had the opportunity to sample OFER’s final jar of last year’s cider supply too.

DIYalogue Talks Food

I had a lot of fun with the event, and enjoyed catching up with Nate, Cynthia, and some of the other mentors too.

DIYalogue Talks Food was a great way to kickoff the NextGen blog theme for this month: food.

This month we will be bringing you tantalizing, and thought-provoking posts on and about the food scene in Edmonton. We’ll share what that means to a consumer, to a foodie, to a business owner, to an activist, and to someone who loves to cook, bake, and create.

Looking forward to it!

DIYalogue Talks Food

Thanks to Carol, John, and everyone else who made DIYalogue possible!

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #13

Edmonton’s thirteenth and first outdoor Pecha Kucha Night was held last night at the Heritage Amphitheatre in Hawrelak Park. With more than 800 tickets sold in advance, there was a big crowd in attendance (both people and fearless squirrels), though the venue could have held even more people. As a result, tickets were available at the door for the first time in a long time! One of my favorite things about Pecha Kucha is that the venue changes each time. Organizers have flirted with the idea of being outside before, and after last night I think it’s safe to say that it can work. Fortunately the weather held out – aside from a little wind, it was a lovely evening!

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN13:

  1. Sarah Jackson, Coffee Boss, Entrepreneur
  2. Michael Cenkner, Inventor, Educator, Artist
  3. Vanessa Higgins, Watershed Specialist
  4. David Faber & Lewis Cardinal, Community Leaders
  5. Adam Henley, Student
  6. Ken Bautista, Entrepreneur
  7. Pieter de Vos, Community Development Practitioner
  8. Nadine Riopel, The Savvy Do Gooder
  9. Amy Beaith & Mike Johnson, Fruit Rescuers
  10. Omar Mouallem, Associate Editor, Avenue Edmonton

I thought everyone did a great job delivering their talks last night. There were more notes-in-hand than at previous PKNs, but no one stumbled as a result. I wonder if the larger outdoor vendor was more intimidating than the smaller enclosed spaces or less? As always, our hosts asked for a show of hands to see how many people had never been to PKN before. I think the majority of the audience were first-timers!

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #13

Sarah kicked things off with a talk that I would best describe as a lecture on the perils of engaging online at the expense of face-to-face communication. She encouraged people to lay down their devices and meet people for coffee. It’s a good message, but I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I would say I’m fairly active online, but I also meet people for coffee all the time. Seriously, ask the folks at Credo, they’ll tell you! Michael’s talk explored monoculture and permaculture, among other things. I thought his idea that monoculture is often characterized by straight lines was really interesting. I thought Vanessa was one of the best speakers of the evening, even if I didn’t really connect with the content of her talk. Her delivery was spot-on, and even with the technical difficulties of the screen behind her, she powered forward without hesitation. As Brittney said, Vanessa deserves huge props for getting up in front a crowd to talk about her depression.

After a quick break, David and Lewis told us about the Spirit of Edmonton, an initiative to reclaim and connect our city’s spirit, art, culture, and history. I had not heard about this before, so it was great to learn a little about what is being planned. Lewis told us that Edmonton’s “pehonan” is the Rossdale Flats, where our city was born eight to ten thousand years ago. Adam’s talk on our healthcare system was one of the most intriguing of the night. He talked about the changes being precipitated by technology, and touched on some of the things that could be possible if only we could move past paper and steel vaults (think big data analysis). After another quick break, Ken shared with us some thoughts on TEDx and what the program has achieved and is capable of. It’s amazing how many events have been organized all around the world! Oh and Ken, I love that you included the falcon picture. Pieter was up next and he talked about some of the work he has done in places like Vancouver and Haiti with photography. In addition to telling stories about his travels, Pieter has taught others in the places he has visited how to use photography to tell their own stories.

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #13

Nadine was up next to talk about the charitable sector. As promised, it was very different than her last PKN talk. In fact, I think it was my favorite presentation of the whole evening, because Nadine put forward an idea that inspired conversation. She challenged us to think differently about the charitable sector – why do we always ask charities about their costs and whether they are keeping them low but never if they are achieving their outcomes? Why is it okay to get rich mining for diamonds or drilling for oil, but not saving lives? Nadine said that we treat the charitable sector as if we want it to cut costs. Instead, we should treat it as if we want it to do good!

Amy and Mike told us about Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) and the work they are doing to rescue fruit and build community. It’s pretty amazing what the group has been able to achieve in just a few short years, and I’m sure the best is yet to come. You can learn more about what they do and where the fruit goes here. The final presentation of the evening was Omar’s hilarious talk on cats. He was the perfect choice for a closer, because he made everyone laugh but also expertly snuck in some serious points about cats as well! He started with LOLCats and the idea that cats are more popular now than ever before. Unfortunately, because most people don’t pay anything for their cats, they are also among the most abused and least looked after pets. There was one moment in particular when everyone in the crowd looked at each other in disbelief – Omar told us about the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Cat Association. Yes, search and rescue cats save lives. I can’t remember ever experiencing such a full-on “are you serious?!” moment at Pecha Kucha, so nice job Omar!

I have to say that while I enjoyed myself and loved the venue, I didn’t exactly walk away from PKN13 feeling inspired nor particularly challenged. I guess that’s okay – people can share whatever they like – but I prefer the presentations that really do lead to interesting conversations and discussions.

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #13

Before the show got started, Mayor Mandel joined a few NextGeners on stage to proclaim June as Next Gen Month in our city. He remarked to me afterward that he is really impressed by how much the community has accomplished! There’s a lot of great stuff happening throughout the month, so check out Edmonton Next Gen for updates.

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #13 Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton #13

Our hosts for the evening were Thomas Scott and John Loveseth, and I thought they both did an excellent job. The giant LED screen on stage was provided by Allstar Show Industries, and despite a few technical difficulties at the beginning, it worked really well. DJ Justin Foosh from All Out DJs provided the musical ambiance, while Molly’s Eats and The Act served hungry attendees all evening long. It was great to have the food trucks on site! Sharon and I took the free PKN Shuttle Bus from the University to Hawrelak Park – thanks NextGen for arranging that! One other sponsor note – everyone in attendance received a gift card from Famoso Neapolitan Pizza for a free pizza before June 30!

Stay tuned to @EdmNextGen on Twitter and check out the website for updates on PKN and other events. See you at PKN14 in the fall!

You can see a few more photos from the evening here, and you can read about past Pecha Kucha Nights in Edmonton here.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #12

pkn12Edmonton’s twelfth Pecha Kucha Night was held last night at the historic Garneau Theatre in Old Strathcona. More than 500 people attended to see 10 presentations on a variety of topics, all delivered in the now familiar 20-slides-at-20-seconds-per-slide format. Most Pecha Kucha Nights in Edmonton have featured something unique, and last night the spotlight and red carpet outside the theatre welcomed attendees in style. The popcorn was free, the seats were comfy, and the energy in the room was infectious.

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN12:

  1. Erin Monaghan, Blogger
  2. Ben Henderson, City Councillor
  3. Duncan Kinney, Polynerd
  4. Leroy Schultz, Photographer
  5. Stephen Visser & Dawn Lamothe, Yoga Lovers
  6. Joseph Ahorro, U2 Fan
  7. Michael Walters, Community Organizer
  8. Chris Falconer & Owen Petersen, Foodies
  9. Sue Huff, MLA Candidate
  10. Steve Sandor, Journalist

It takes guts to get up in front of such a large crowd, especially when you have a limited period of time and high expectations! I thought all of the presenters did a great job. All of them seemed to have fun too! Sharon remarked that PKN12 was probably in the middle of the pack in terms of presentations, and I agree.

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton 12

Erin kicked off the evening with her discussion of street fashion, drawing mainly on her experiences writing The Vestiary. I thought her approach, treating Edmonton as her “little sister”, added a nice touch of humor, even if the overall flow was at times difficult to follow. I love that Erin and others like her are doing something about the perception of Edmonton’s fashion scene! Duncan’s presentation was packed with information, and I thought he did a nice job of discussing what a credit union is and why you should consider one. Duncan recently organized the Local Money Summit and is running to be a director of Servus Credit Union. One of the more moving presentations of the evening was Leroy’s overview of Miguelito’s Little Green Car. It’s an amazing story really, he has taken this little green car all over the world and photographed it people from all walks of life. He wants to show that everyone is connected. Here is the photo he took of the audience with the little green car:

First up after the intermission was Joseph, who talked about his experiences travelling to U2 concerts all around the world. We’re not talking one or two concerns, we’re talking dozens, on four different continents! The human connection is what made the story interesting, that and Joseph’s occasional singing! Michael Walters spent his twenty slides talking about local food, and in particular, the northeast part of our city which is home to some of the best farmland in the country. He talked about The Great Potato Giveaway, and about the importance of building a local food hub. The next presentation featured foodies Chris and Owen who wore matching plaid shirts and aprons. Their high energy talk was focused on bread – the history of it, why bread is great, and even some science behind it. They finished with the quickest bread making I have ever seen! Sue was up next with an interesting talk on creative politics. It was a solid talk with some good ideas, but it just couldn’t match the energy of some of the other talks. The final presentation was all about why Edmonton needs an SCTV monument. Steven made the case and had some really interesting visuals (I like the one of Melonville). I can definitely get behind the notion that we should celebrate more than just our sports heroes, but I think we can do better than SCTV. I think the association between ‘Edmonton’ and ‘SCTV’ is incredibly low for the vast majority of people, and a monument isn’t going to change that. On the other hand, maybe I am just too young.

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton 12

I think a lot of people in the audience really enjoyed Stephen and Dawn’s “presentation” but it didn’t work for me. Instead of a typical presentation, they did yoga on stage for the six minutes and forty seconds, with a different position for each slide. Obviously they worked very hard at the presentation, and as Michael Brechtel commented to me, it was executed perfectly, and for that I commend them. For me though, it wasn’t a Pecha Kucha talk. The voiceover was pre-recorded There was a third, unannounced presenter off to the side who provided the voiceover for each slide, and I found I wasn’t even listening to it because I was distracted/enthralled by the acrobatics on stage.

My favorite presentation of the evening (and Sharon’s favorite too) was Ben Henderson’s discussion on winter. He showed images from his trip to Oslo, Helsinki, and other winter cities in northern Europe. Ben was full of energy, full of passion for his subject, and I think he did a nice job of being serious and fun at the same time. I hope he made as much of an impression on everyone else as he did on me, and if you’re interested in learning more about the City’s WinterCity strategy, visit the website and also check out the IdeaScale site.

Twitter always plays a large role in Pecha Kucha. The #pkn12 hashtag was buzzing last night! Here are a few tweets from the evening that I thought were worth capturing:

Proceeds from the bar went to the food bank, and there were a bunch of great prize giveaways too. I seem to have pretty good luck with prizes at Pecha Kucha, because I was one of the winners! Once again the event was livestreamed by the Edmonton Journal. I didn’t see as much chatter about quality or connection issues, so hopefully it worked well for everyone. In case you missed it, you can watch the recorded video here.

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton 12Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton 12

Keep an eye on @EdmNextGen for details on the next Pecha Kucha Night, tentatively scheduled for June.

You can read about past Pecha Kucha Nights in Edmonton here.

Recap: Edmonton NextGen’s Up{date}

Tonight Edmonton NextGen hosted an event called Up{date} at the Art Gallery of Alberta. Here’s what it was all about:

Up{date} 2011 brings together city councillors and key civic leaders in a speed dating style format for you to directly ask how their visions for Edmonton’s future are coming to life a year since the election. First introduced in the 2010 municipal election, Candi{date} is a made-in-Edmonton NextGen event that connects Next Gen voters to election candidates. Candi{date} is a casual, informal and fun way for voters to meet candidates, find out who they are and what they stand for, and to ask the questions that matter to them.

I wrote about the second Candi{date} event here. I think it is great that NextGen is creating opportunities to connect with our civic leaders, so I was excited to check out Up{date}. I was disappointed in the turnout tonight though, with only 20 to 30 people in attendance. I’m equally disappointed that more of my peers don’t seem to take advantage of opportunities like this (though tonight there was stiff competition from the Crate & Barrel grand opening at Southgate, with catering by D’lish, that’s where Sharon was). Clearly there is work to be done!


Mayor Mandel came for a brief period, but Councillors Batty, Henderson, Iveson, Krushell, and Sohi were in attendance most of the evening. Also joining them was Edmonton’s Fire Chief Ken Block. Here are my notes from the discussions I had!

Councillor Henderson

  • “Our long-term health depends on building a city that people want to live in, not one they have to live in.”
  • Unsurprisingly, his least favorite issue right now is the arena. He talked about the issues that people like to focus on – potholes, taxes – and said that “they are important, but they often get in the way of city building.” He made the point that “no one moves to a city because it has no potholes.”
  • He also spent some time talking about aboriginal issues in Edmonton, and the need to make progress. He mentioned Edmonton’s Urban Aboriginal Accord (PDF) and called it “an important document.” Another point he made was that we haven’t done a lot to recognize or celebrate that aspect of our city’s history.
  • On the topic of urban sprawl, he expressed concern that “maybe we don’t mean what we say.” He said that Council has said they want to stop urban sprawl, but have actually done little to achieve that.
  • When the discussion turned to crime, he mentioned that “putting more police on the street is just a band-aid solution” and that we need to focus on making changes for the future.

Councillor Krushell

  • On downtown: “it needs work.”
  • We talked quite a bit about the proposed Shaw Conference Centre expansion. Krushell was on the expansion committee that evaluated the business case. “I disagree with the Mayor on this one” she told us, explaining that her preference is to have the SCC expand into the river valley rather than across Jasper Avenue.
  • “We somehow haven’t figured out how to utilize our riverfront.”
  • We of course talked quite a lot about the City Centre Redevelopment. “When we say to young people, ‘don’t spread out and buy single family homes in the suburbs’, what product do we offer as an alternative?” She sees the ECCA lands as an opportunity to provide that alternative product.


Councillor Sohi

  • He started out with a couple of stories about his days as a bus driver with ETS. On his very first day, he was driving route 30 and on the 3rd or 4th stop the door wouldn’t close. He managed to get it closed but it kept happening! Ultimately he had to call control and they sent a a new bus, but it was a stressful start! “Be nice to the drivers!” he told us.
  • I asked him about the arena and if there was anything Council could have done differently. His response: “In hindsight we should have been in the driver’s seat rather than letting the Katz Group drive the process.”
  • Sohi said he believes Edmonton can become a centre of excellence when it comes to diversity, and he hopes to see more coverage of multicultural issues in our city. “We also can’t forget that we will soon have the largest aboriginal population.”
  • “I always look around at events like this and ask, ‘is Edmonton being represented?’”

Chief Block

  • “It’s an absolute honor to be the chief.”
  • He started at Fire Rescue Services in 1980, so he’s certainly a veteran!
  • Block mentioned he was particularly proud that Edmonton Fire Rescue was approved by The Commission on Fire Accreditation International as an accredited agency last year. “We were the 138th out of around 36,000 fire services across North America to get full accreditation, and just the 3rd in Canada.”
  • On a day-to-day basis, budgetary issues are one of the major challenges. He praised Council however, telling us that two additional stations are opening at the end of the year.
  • Fire Rescue Services responds to 34,000 events per year, about 65% of which are medical events. There are typically between 900 and 1300 fires per year, but there’s a lot of variation with regards to when and where.
  • I asked him about succession planning, and while noting that there are a large number of firefighters close to retirement, he did say they were having success with recruiting. “We see between 900 and 1400 applicants per year.” He explained that there’s not a lot of movement out of the department – firefighters generally remain firefighters for their entire careers.
  • Another long-term challenge he talked about was building codes and building materials. “There are almost no solid wood products anymore,” he told us, and explained that the newer combination products burn faster and hotter.
  • Arson accounts for roughly 30% of fires across Canada, and that’s no different in Edmonton, he said. “We’re trying to work closer with police, because there are very few convictions with arson.”
  • Another interesting point he made was about the need to serve the river valley. “The public is being invited to make use of the river valley more and more, and we need to be able to handle emergencies there.”
  • On getting information to citizens digitally: “That’s an area we need to improve upon.”


I enjoyed talking to Chief Block most tonight. It was great to connect with one of our civic leaders who isn’t always in the spotlight. I think it might be interesting to have similar events in the future with other less-visible civic leaders.

Kudos to NextGen for creating the opportunity – now we need to work on getting people to take advantage of it. If you haven’t already done so, check out Edmonton NextGen’s annual report for 2010. You can also subscribe to the NextGen newsletter to stay on top of events like Up{date}.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #11

pkn11Edmonton’s eleventh Pecha Kucha Night was held last night at the Myer Horowitz Theatre on the University of Alberta campus (if you’re new to Pecha Kucha, read this). More than 600 people attended the event which featured ten presentations on a variety of topics. As usual, attendees were asked if this was their first ever Pecha Kucha Night and most of the hands in the audience shot up. It’s great that Edmonton NextGen continues to reach new people, but I do wonder where everyone else has gone and if they ever come back!

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN11:

  1. Jeremy Derksen, Adventure Writer
  2. Chris Samuel, Lawyer/ Starcraft Enthusiast
  3. Ryan Saunders, PhD Candidate in Mechanical Engineering and Co-Founder of ABCampusTec
  4. David Papp, Technology Advisor
  5. Darren Wagner, PhD Student, University of York
  6. Wendy Caplan & Wade Kelly, Educators
  7. Larry Retzlaff, Senior Planner, City of Edmonton
  8. Joshua Le, Business Student, University of Alberta
  9. Jeff Senger & Paul Cabaj, Co-Founders of SPARK
  10. Karen Unland, Journalism Educator and Consultant

The range of topics certainly seemed a lot broader than at PKNs past, with everything from Starcraft to Raw Denim. Generally I think the themed evenings work better, though I suppose there are hits and misses with both approaches. Last night had its share of both.

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Jeremy Derksen kicked things off with a bold statement, saying “Edmonton is a great place to have an adventure.” He argued for the consideration of urban adventure as we build the Edmonton of the future, and pointed out that risk can be healthy. I loved that he touched on graffiti – provide a legitimate space for it, and I think you get rewarded. Chris Samuel was up next with his introduction to Starcraft and the world of competitive gameplay as a sport. He taught us that there are official leagues, commentators, heroes, and everything else that you might expect with other professional sports. His highly entertaining presentation probably had the most tweeted phrase of the evening, apparently adlibbed on the fly: “Nerds come in all shapes and sizes.” Ryan Saunders gave a nice introduction to ABCampusTec, though the presentation was basically just a commercial for the organization. I really wanted to like David Papp’s presentation – he did a phenomenal job of bringing energy and passion to the stage – but I personally found it difficult to get past the fact that he was basically saying “look at how much traffic my site got” for 20 slides. I was also looking for the social media experiment, but it never came. Darren Wagner closed out the first half of the show with perhaps the most controversial presentation of the evening, a look at “nature’s naughty bits” though it was more of a historical look at how human societies have displayed genitalia.

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In a change from past events, door prizes were given out right before the break (Sharon suggested it may have been so that the winners were more likely to still be in attendance). If the opening presentations didn’t entertain you, Ryan Jespersen most certainly did. He was responsible for handing out the prizes, but of course, he had fun with it. He’s totally at home with a microphone in his hand – there’s a reason this has become his segment at PKN. I think @squiish said it best: “Ryan, you made door prizes pleasurable for the losers too.”

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While the Myer Horowitz is a great venue, it doesn’t work so well for drinks. That’s a picture of the one and only one bar at the break. If you were patient enough to get a drink, my guess is that you didn’t have time to drink it before the second half started up again! It was great to see two local beers on offer though, Alley Kat and Wild Rose.

Pecha Kucha Night 11

First up after the break was the duo of Wendy Caplan and Wade Kelly. As soon as they started their presentation – “4000 friends and 140 characters: Redefining our Social Lexicon” – I tweeted that I didn’t want to be preached at about Twitter and how it doesn’t bring people together. While their presentation was an interesting recap of long-forgotten behaviors (like taking film to the store and waiting weeks for it to be developed) I thought it was probably delivered at the wrong event. A large number of people in the audience met and became friends precisely thanks to the new tools and technologies Wendy and Wade were questioning. Larry Retzlaff was up next, to talk about Transit Oriented Development and the guidelines the City is currently developing. Important topic that I hope more Edmontonians get engaged with, and as far as awareness goes I suppose the presentation was a success, but when we’ve had outstanding TOD-as-LEGO presentations in the past, it sort of missed the mark. Joshua Le’s presentation on raw denim was interesting and educational, though it was somewhat similar to David’s – a recap of how far and wide word of his project spread. Jeff Senger and Paul Cabaj were up next, to talk about cooperatives. I learned that 2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives, but unfortunately I didn’t take much else away from the presentation. Karen Unland had the final presentation of the evening, a passionate discussion of what journalism needs now. I thought she did a great job of balancing humor and seriousness to get her message across.

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The crowd favorite of the evening was probably Chris Samuel’s really unique presentation on Starcraft. I know I’m curious about the viewing parties that are held at local bars! It seems as though each PKN usually has a particularly memorable quote or phrase. With PKNX, it was “magpie town”. I think Karen’s quote (she had lots of great ones) was probably the winner last night: “French kiss change. Hump change’s leg!” Those were probably my two favorite presentations, though I quite enjoyed Jeremy Derksen’s as well.

Other thoughts: I think NextGen might have set a record last night for starting so close to the advertised time! The Edmonton Journal once again livestreamed the event, but a number of technical issues made it a less than smooth experience for viewers. This PKN was the first in Edmonton to be held at a venue that has already been used – PKN5 was at the Myer Horowitz back in October 2009. The event featured music by DJ Blue Jay and a visual art showcase presented by Timeraiser, coming up on October 15. There’s a great collection of photos by Dave DeGagné, the event’s official photographer, here. You can see my much crappier ones here.

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NextGen is currently planning Pecha Kucha Night 12 for February. Keep an eye on @EdmNextGen for updates!

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #10 (PKNX)

Last night was Edmonton’s tenth Pecha Kucha Night, a completely sold out event held at the Alberta Aviation Museum. It was the second straight to sell-out in advance of the doors opening, and judging by the number of hands that went up when our hosts asked how many people had never been to a Pecha Kucha Night before, the event’s reach continues to expand. PKNX focused on downtown:

With the redevelopment of the City Centre Airport lands on the horizon, PKNX explores the potential for a Do-It-Yourself Downtown and features presenters exploring the architectural, social, environmental and cultural potential for our urban core in the 20 slides x 20 sec per slide format made popular world-wide by Klein Dytham Architecture.

I saw a few comments on Twitter asking why the event was held on the City Centre Airport lands if the focus was on downtown, but that’s exactly the kind of controversy that Edmonton NextGen was going for. And without question the redevelopment of the ECCA lands will have a big impact on downtown. I just wish NextGen had gone all-in and made Ryan Jespersen’s suggestion a reality – his idea was to setup a stage on the closed runway! How cool would that have been, presenting with the runway lights all around you?!

Being the tenth iteration of Pecha Kucha Night in Edmonton, last night was a bit of a milestone so NextGen setup posters from all the previous events (you can see my previous recaps here). It was probably interesting for people new to PKN to see, and even for someone like myself who has been to every single one, it was good to look back.


In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKNX:

  1. Michael Strong, Urban Planner
  2. Shafraaz Kaba, Architect
  3. Tom Sutherland, Architect
  4. Myron Belej, Urban Planner
  5. Ron Gilbertson, CEO of EEDC
  6. Chelsea Boos, Designer
  7. Mike Weinmaster, Botanical Artist
  8. Ian O’Donnell, Downtown Community Guy
  9. Doug Carlyle, Landscape Architect
  10. Tai Ziola & Craig Dorward, Intern Architects
  11. Mack Male, Edmonton Blogger
  12. Todd Babiak, Writer, Hustler

Our hosts for the evening were Ryan Stark and Brian Murray, and they embraced the location dressing up as airmen! I thought they did a much better job of just having fun on stage last night. At the break they did a flight attendant routine to direct people to the washrooms and bar, it was pretty funny!


I sensed a bit of nervousness among the presenters last night, but having been up on stage myself I can totally understand why. The venue was great, but it was also really daunting to be able to see all 400 people seated in front of you. Some talks had more energy than others, and overall there was a nice flow to the evening.


The night got off to a strong start with Mike’s presentation on downtown. He’s the man that really brought Pecha Kucha to Edmonton, so it was cool to see him up on stage. I didn’t care much for Tom’s talk on the Capital City Downtown Plan. It’s important for people to know about, definitely, but I’m not sure it made for the best PKN presentation. Chelsea presented a visual diary of Edmonton’s urban culture, a really thoughtful and beautifully worded talk. Mike joined us all the way from Vancouver to talk about greening Edmonton. He shared some of his experiences covering buildings with vertical greenery. Ian’s concept, that “downtown should be a big patio”, was intriguing though it didn’t translate on stage as well as it could have. He’s right though, who doesn’t love patios and beer? Doug talked about some of the aspects of Paris that make it such a desirable city, and I like that touched on the potential for West Rossdale in here in Edmonton. Tai and Craig had some great concept visuals in their presentation which focused on the potential for urban farming.

I really enjoyed Ron’s talk, and based on the laughter in the audience I think others did as well. He issued a warning that the changes we always talk about for downtown will dramatically change the character of downtown. The 25 cent movies, easy access to parking, and alleys for selling non-prescription drugs will all disappear! He had some excellent visuals too.

Three of us made our third Pecha Kucha appearance last night. Shafraaz talked about the One Planet Living proposal he was a part of for transforming the City Centre Airport. Myron delivered an excellent tongue-in-cheek talk about the history of plans for downtown and how they haven’t panned out (kind of akin to this post I did back in February). And I made my second-straight PKN appearance to talk about the Alley of Light project.

Without a doubt Todd stole the show last night. He was the correct choice to close out the evening, as he delivered a really strong, high energy talk on interventions. I would argue he had the most memorable moments of the evening. One slide showed a before and after of a wall. The before featured some beautiful artwork on the wall, while the after had the wall blank with some inappropriate graffiti scribbled on top: “This wall used to have art, now it has cocks!” He called Edmonton a “magpie town” and implored everyone to say it loudly and proudly! Finally, one statement he made about his interventions project really stuck with me: “I should have asked people to DO something, then email me.”

The most common piece of feedback I heard after the presentations were done was along the lines of “I’m glad you and Todd went last”. I think people appreciated the fact that we talked about actually doing something, as you could argue that the other presentations, while inspirational, were more about ideas and plans than execution.


Pecha Kucha is always a hot topic on Twitter, and last night was no different. The #pknx hashtag was busy! Since midnight on June 17, more than 900 tweets have been posted about PKNX. Here are your top ten #pknx tweeters:

  1. britl
  2. gscratch
  3. TamaraStecyk
  4. lancetay
  5. DavidPapp
  6. SavageTiner
  7. EdmNextGen
  8. AvenueEdmonton
  9. CaryWilliams
  10. kevinlovestech

Here’s a word cloud of #pknx tweets from that same time period (with #pknx, #yeg, and RT removed):

As with PKN9, last night’s presentations were live-streamed by the Edmonton Journal – you can watch the archived video here.

Once again, Graphos was responsible for the visual design of PKNX. I really love the red X. Graphos really took it to the next level this time, creating an entire physical installation for the poster (you can watch the making of here). It was setup at the museum last night, so we snagged a photo:


The next Pecha Kucha Night in Edmonton, PKN11, is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, September 14 at the University of Alberta (in conjunction with Alumni Week). Keep an eye on @EdmNextGen for updates.

I received some really great feedback on my “I ❤ #yegdt” t-shirt. I had it made at Bang-On Edmonton specifically for last night’s event (I can now wear it to any number of downtown-related events). There were some pretty intense prize last night as well, including a Molson beer fridge! Presenting sponsor BT Edmonton gave away an iPod touch that I won (actually it was Sharon’s ticket). I went up and told Ryan to redraw for it – I’m the last person to need yet another electronic device! To make up for it, he plugged both my site and What the Truck?! – thanks Ryan!

Thanks to Edmonton Next Gen for another great event, to all of the volunteers for making it happen, and to everyone who attended or watched online! You can see the rest of my photos from last night here.

June is Next Gen Month in Edmonton

Last night at the Muttart Conservatory, Edmonton’s NextGen relaunched its website and brand and, along with partners in the “little-n” next gen community, launched Next Gen Month. I think the situation here in Edmonton is rather unique – local next gen organizations are actively working together to make Edmonton a better place. There’s collaboration, rather than competition. Edmonton’s NextGen committee has done some great work recently to get all of the organizations connected and meeting regularly, and I think is starting to see itself more as a hub. That doesn’t mean that NextGen will stop pursuing its own events and initiatives, but there’s a growing awareness that one organization simply can’t represent the entire next gen community.

Next Gen Month Launch Next Gen Month Launch

The big news from last night is that June is going to be Next Gen Month in Edmonton. The idea came about as organizers in the next gen community realized there’s a lot of stuff happening next month. Mayor Stephen Mandel and Councillor Don Iveson were in attendance last night to make the official proclamation:

Whereas, the City of Edmonton is dedicated to supporting young, passionate, community-minded individuals who are taking the future into their own hands by creating a city that attracts and gives voice to the next generation of Edmontonians;

And whereas, through events, leadership and professional development opportunities, next generation organizations are working together to foster young leaders and help provide critical input as the city continues to grow;

And whereas, the City of Edmonton recognizes the efforts of next gen organizations who are actively working to connect people, places, community and ideas together;

And whereas, all Edmontonians are encouraged to participate in activities hosted by next gen organizations through the month of June;

Therefore, I, Mayor Stephen Mandel, do hereby proclaim June 2011, as “Next Gen Month” in Edmonton, Alberta’s capital city.

Next Gen Month Launch

As you can see, Edmonton’s NextGen now has a new, colorful logo. It was designed by Darren Tonn, Ryan Kelly, and Dennis Lenarduzzi of the Ad Club of Edmonton. They shared some of the design elements and rationale behind the new logo at last night’s event. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me, but if you focus on the blue lines you should see an “unfinished e”, designed to represent the fact that NextGen is still building in Edmonton. I think it does a much better job of conveying what NextGen is all about. You can see their presentation on the logo here.

Next Gen Month Launch Next Gen Month Launch

The new logo is featured prominently on NextGen’s new website. Credit for the new site goes to Ashley Casovan, Devin Serink, Lisa Hagen, and Greg Crossfield, who all worked really hard to bring their vision to life. The site features a much-improved Committee page, a photo gallery, a news feed with blog posts from partners, an event calendar, and more. I had a hand in that last one – the event calendar and list of upcoming events is powered by ShareEdmonton! There’s obviously room for improvement, but the new site is a solid platform for the committee to build upon.

Next Gen Month Launch

I’m encouraged by the things our next gen community is working on, and by the fact that we’re all working together. There’s a lot of work still be done, but I think we’re heading in the right direction. It seems that hyperbole abounds whenever one talks about the next gen community, but I really do think that we can make a difference here in Edmonton!

I think it’s fair to say that it was “the usual crowd” in attendance last night. For a launch event, I think that’s okay, but it’s definitely a challenge the next gen community will need to address moving forward. With somewhere around 265,000 Edmontonians in the target demographic (18-40) there’s a lot of people that we haven’t yet connected with. On that note, check out the event calendar, get involved, and tell a friend!

You can see more photos from last night’s event here.