Best of the Festivals

When people around the world talk about Calgary, they usually focus on the financial and economic strength of the city. Yes, Calgary offers a wealth of opportunities, but its riches go far beyond dollars and cents. Here, in no particular order, are some of Calgary’s most loved festivals.


Science, technology and the arts merge each September at Beakerhead, a city-wide, hands-on spectacle of engineered creativity (and creative engineering). Created to stimulate ingenuity, Beakerhead transforms Calgary into a massive laboratory for workshops, performances, community competitions and installations. Past highlights have included a catapult competition and a theremin-building workshop.


When the Calgary Folk Music Festival first touched down on Prince’s Island in 1980, it launched three decades (and counting) of sarongs, homespun wares, vegetarian delicacies and acoustic guitars. At the festival, the world is as it should be for four days: people are happy, friendly, well-fed and addicted to good music. The festival pushes the definition of folk music, featuring everyone from Elvis Costello, Ani DiFranco, Billy Bragg and Feist, to Lucinda Williams and Alison Krauss.


The first Calgary International Film Festival was held in 2000. Today one of Canada’s largest film festivals, it screens more than 200 movies from around the world and attracts over 20,000 film buffs. During the September event, filmgoers line the streets, and the parties are glamorous yet unpretentious. An addendum to the festival is Doc Soup, a series of the world’s top documentary films.


Calgary’s civic pride makes us want to blow stuff up (we’re talking about fireworks here, just to be clear.) The annual GlobalFest international fireworks competition and exhibition attracts more than 100,000 visitors each August to see fireworks on a grand scale in a beautiful park setting.


This celebration of books and writing began in 1996, and has gained a reputation as a “must-attend” for writers and readers from across Canada. Every October, poets, speakers, singers, essayists and novelists – both famous and obscure – get their chance to reign supreme, while bookworms and word-lovers indulge for a week straight.

Here, in no particular order, are some of Calgary’s most loved festivals.

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