Although people might not always see it, Calgary is a beautiful city. Despite complaints, it is difficult to dismiss the city's best features: plentiful green spaces, a growing music scene and wonderful inhabitants. All of these things are brought to the forefront during Calgary's festival season, where the best parts of the blossoming city are on display. One festival in particular stands above the rest, a sprawling behemoth that commandeers the city for a week of musical bliss. It is Sled Island, and it is almost here.
A festival taking the city by storm, Sled Island runs from June 18-24. It features a series of shows from a diverse selection of bands, from local favourites to international stars. These concerts are supplemented by comedy shows, art galleries and films, which together create an event for all interests. Festival director Lindsay Shedden says that the best part about Sled is not its growing size, but its location.
"It happens in Calgary, which is one of the most amazing cities in Canada, if not the most amazing," says Shedden. "The scene is incredible, the people here are incredible and everyone is so open and loving."
Shedden, who has worked with Sled Island for the last few years, believes that the festival helps to bring out the best in Calgary's residents, making the greatest parts of the city even better.
"During Sled Island, everything seems to be elevated, everybody is interested in meeting new people and having new experiences," she says. "It's just a big friend-fest."
Size, of course, does count for something. Due to the festival's immense popularity, Sled Island offers a chance for Calgarians to experience many bands that might otherwise not be able to visit what Shedden calls a remote city.
"Geographically, Calgary is kind of in the middle of nowhere," explains Shedden. "It's 12 hours from Vancouver, so we do often get missed by major tours. Sled Island creates this opportunity for bands that might have previously missed Calgary to come here and experience how amazing this city is."
However, with so many people gathering together to enjoy the many different experiences Sled Island has to offer, a few problems naturally arise. One difficulty in previous years has been a lack of bicycle parking, which could lead people to choose less environmentally friendly forms of transportation. Thankfully, Shedden has made sure this will not be a problem again.
"What we have really put a lot of effort into this year is upping our clean initiative, and trying to make it more accessible for people riding their bikes," she says. "More than 50 per cent of people are going to these shows on their bikes. We're getting more bike racks put in, both permanent and temporary, to make it easier for people to just park their bikes and run in to shows."
Biking has always been an important part of the Sled Island experience, and the festival is doing its best to make the most environmentally conscious option also the easiest one.
"The city is so accessible, all of the venues are within walking and biking distance of each other and it's really easy to get around," says Shedden. "With the way the schedule is laid out for Sled Island, you can hop on your bike and see 10 shows a night, if you plan it right."
Sled Island is a festival that brings the people of Calgary together, and shows them the best parts of this amazing city. Yet despite its gargantuan size, it will not be leaving behind a mess.
"Festivals are notorious for producing so much waste, and we just want to be as clean as possible. The city is so beautiful, and it is important to us to do our part to keep it that way," says Shedden.