#YEG: Living on the Fringe

A tale of a classic Edmonton summer festival evening.

Illustration Valery Goulet

Here’s a valuable life lesson I’ve learned: If you can choose when you relocate, make your move in the warm glow of summer. And if you’re moving to Edmonton, do so during the Fringe Festival in August.

The year was 1998. My husband and I decided to leave British Columbia and answer the siren call of Alberta’s oilsands, with its myriad opportunities.

Paul arrived a month ahead of me, to settle into his job and find a place where we would shift our west-coast brains to a prairie mindset. I could hardly wait for the plane to land. His grinning face met mine at YEG and he took me to our new home, close to Whyte Avenue.

“Come on, we gotta go out now.”

“Out?” I said. “We just got in.” I pointed to my two bulging suitcases. My vision featured a quick shower and a slow re-acquaintance with my cute husband, considering we’d been apart for 33 days. Then I thought of those bottles of wine chilling in the fridge, and a silky teddy still unpacked.

I had time for nothing more than a brief scan of the rooms when he caught my hand, gently pulling me towards the front door. “Baby, the Fringe is on!” The sexy party would have to wait; he wanted me to “meet Edmonton” (his words) with a high-energy introduction.

We only had to walk a couple of blocks before reaching a full-on Fringe frenzy under the dazzling sun. Holding hands, we meandered through a swell of busy buskers, a melody of sounds and the sweet-salty tang of food vendors. We purchased tickets for several performances.

Then we travelled a few more blocks surrounding my new neighbourhood, past the Strathcona Hotel, past a window with fluffy baked goods, past open doorways out of which spilled jazz or rock music, past a range of subcultures to explore and restaurants I wanted to try. After leaving a province where designated libations and hours of operation were government-regulated, I pointed at the signs atop liquor stores – Liquor Barn and Liquor World, to name a few. Here, a galaxy of pleasures awaited, all open late and within walking distance.

Speaking of pleasures, Paul soon remembered that lingerie and those bottles of pinot grigio, and he steered me toward home. Day 1 in Edmonton had unfolded on the fringe of wonderful.

Shannon Kernaghan is the author of two books, including the collection of short stories, Like Minds. Her fiction has appeared in a number of Canadian journals. She continues to welcome a galaxy of pleasures, including this year’s Fringe.

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