From the outset, University District has defined its community through non-physical means. When much of the neighbourhood lived only in architectural drawings and concepts, and actual brick-and-mortar buildings were just starting to emerge on the Bow River valley ridge, University District built something just as valued: a sense of connection and togetherness.
The goal for University District is to create connections first, and build on that foundation, and there isn’t a better time to stoke the fires of warmth, connection, and celebration than the holiday season. Among other annual events in the community, Northwestival is an especially formidable way to collaborate for fun. during winter, we Northern folk must band together to survive and thrive! And Northwestival is a wonderful way to do just that and warm up to winter as a community!
If you’re unfamiliar with Northwestival, here’s the basic recipe: start with a big, central green space; add some big, cozy tents, some igloos, and a few bonfires to keep warm and smores; mix in some adventurous food vendors (and coffee!); whip up some top tier technical and audio production; fill a big stage with fun, family friendly performance talent.
The secret ingredient is a whole neighbourhood full of people. And voila! Northwestival is born. It is a gathering place for merchants, vendors, gourmets and creatives local to North West Calgary and area, somewhere for community to grow despite the cold and snow, and a fun way to spend an afternoon wandering with the family and Fido in tow.
Northwestival’s first events have all taken place on a field just east of the Discovery Centre. Though it looked a little nondescript then, that location was chosen with purpose. That field will become University District’s Central Park in 2022. Once the transformation is complete, what was once a soccer field will become a vast network of pathways, water features and green space dedicated to the natural, organic connection that defines University District.
It’s quite poetic to have held the inaugural Northwestival at that location, since that festival is part of the DNA of the community as it grows, and over time Northwestival will again take over Central Park to light up the holiday nights with warmth and merriment, many years on, with memories to spare and laughter to share.
This year, with construction now underway on the soon-to-be Central Park, an exciting new location at NW Commons park will be Northwestivals home and presents a fresh place for this annual get together.
So let’s get specific here: what’s happening at Northwestival on Dec. 8 from 1-6 pm? What can excited Calgarians get a taste of at this gathering space of good holiday vibes?
One of the most critical focal points of Northwestival is the peanut butter drive in support of I Can For Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing Calgary children with healthy meals. The local charity started by its founder Sutton Garner, an inspiring 15-year-old changemaker, will be on-site during the festival accepting unopened jars of peanut butter (or other nut butter) or cash donations. Donations will also be accepted at the Discovery Centre before and after Northwestival.
Beyond that, who and what is returning? Heritage Roasting Company will be on one of the most important duties of the day, that is, hot drinks, of the caffeinated or non-caffeinated varieties, graciously sponsored by builder partner Avi Urban who will top it off with some surprises of their own!
Their ethos is to provide the highest quality beans at the ideal roast level for each and every variety they stock, and its history of learning to roast beans on an open fire in the mountains helped them gain a truly intimate knowledge of what makes great, memorable coffee.
Sip these wholesome drinks down by the fire pits and melt some s’mores, both generously provided by Gracorp, to get that full belly holiday feeling. Patrons with a sweet tooth will likely find the Cababe á Sucre (maple taffy station) the perfect solution thanks to sponsor and builder partner Brookfield Residential.
Adults in the crowd (and some of the more adventurous teens) will remember BATL and its axe throwing game, so be sure to roll their way if you’re looking to get your blood and adrenaline pumping in the chilly weather.
Hip Image returns with one of the biggest hits of Northwestival, a holiday themed photo booth for your family’s fun portraits. Don’t forget to dress up a little wacky for this one!
Hands-On returns with its Winter Workshops in the big central gathering tents. Be ready to not only bring back a classic workshop in the Ugly Sweater making extravaganza, there’s a new workshop in town appropriately a Gingerbread Cookie Decorating collaboration between facilitators Hands-On YYC and 8Cakes, a local bakery providing all the pre-made cookies and decoration supplies — with gluten and dairy free options even!
As always, some new elements will be blowing through University District, and in this case two of the fresh puzzle pieces relate to the dynamic stage talent curated by supporting partner BassBus, the technical team behind the ground game of the festival.
When booking talent for Northwestival, Baran Faber and the BassBus team have accessibility and universality top of mind. “Tons of families pass through this festival every year,” he shared, “so we always look for talent that can appeal to the huge range of lifestyles and age groups University District appeals to. We know this community wants fun, they want a bit of bombast, and they to get moving and dance a little.”
To that end, Northwestival has recruited four top notch, family friendly, fun highlight performance acts. The first is the Rondel Roberts Band, a rollicking five piece fronted by the charismatic and colourful Rondel, with a catalog of covers from reggae to funk to pop to soul to hip hop. They’re as upbeat as it comes, and we know even Grandma will want to get up and dance when they hit the stage.
Hip hop dance studio Pulse Studios have a compellingly titled piece called Beast Machine, so without a doubt their big, bad crew of a dozen or more passionate kids will bring some serious heat to the chilly proceedings.
The performances aren’t relegated to conventional stage performances either, Northwestival will harness the unusual — as usual. A fire performance from performance troupe Body Art Motion, freshly returned from a run of shows in Saudi Arabia, will literally get fires burning, and The Hitmen Drumline will perform throughout the day, with some crowd interaction peppered in to spice up the day.
At the end of the day, the deepest days of winter are the moment for us all to take stock of our lives and loved ones and remember not only where we come from, but where we’re going. Such moments are the stuff true communities are built on, and University District has known that from the start. The time, the effort, the blood, sweat and tears it takes to craft a truly engaging, interesting way ultimately form the emotional bonds that comprise the exact goal University District has always professed to: connected, mindful community.
So bust out those sleigh bells, throw a Santa hat on your canine companion, and sidle on down to warm up to winter with entertainment, some shows to boot, crafts to gift, and memories to treasure.
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The University District blog is a resource for Calgarians who want to live, work, play, visit or buy in the northwest. We will provide you with information, stories, news and inspiration about the things that matter so you can live a more inspired, active and connected life in NW Calgary at University District… Life works here.