Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Friday, August 5, 2011

interPLAY 2011 Off to A Smokin' Start

Last night interPLAY 2011 kicked off in Fort Mac, and I was there to see the launch. Events Wood Buffalo, with support from Boston Pizza, Shell, and the Sawridge Inn, hosted a free community BBQ at the new interPLAY home on King Street, in front of Keyano College.

I arrived there at about 5:45 (and would have been earlier but for a 13-year old niece who apparently takes even longer than I do to get ready, which is a bit frightening). We parked in a lot a bit away and while walking there I explained to my niece and my daughter that I wasn't sure where the BBQ would be held. My niece helpfully pointed to the smoke wafting to the sky and suggested that just maybe that might be the site of the BBQ. interPLAY 2011 was indeed off to a smoking start!

So, we wandered in, and were served free hamburgers, chips, and pop. We grabbed a table under a covered tent as it had been spitting rain, and we ate while listening to music from The Full Moon Cafe. The BBQ crowd seemed a bit small, but then again this community BBQ is a new idea, and while it was a small crowd they seemed to be thoroughly embracing the concept of free food and music.

After we had finished the burgers (very good, incidentally, and I was impressed with all the toppings available - way to go, guys!) we decided to wander around the area to try to get a sense of the new set-up for interPLAY. The space is actually amazing, and it should be so much easier to enjoy interPLAY in this new setting as there is so much more room. Franklin was growing very crowded during interPLAY, and at times in the last two years I found it a bit claustrophobic. I think the new setting on King is ideal in so many ways, including access to the Keyano theatres, and just the space available for the event to expand.

I found the girls a couple of the program brochures, and we sat down in front of the stage to listen to more of the music. The girls had found an ice cream truck (clever man, parked right in front of Keyano!) and so they enjoyed popsicles while I took some photos. Then they pulled out the programs and started reading. My daughter asked me if I had a pen, and when I gave it to her she got straight to work, circling all the things she wishes to see and do, and figuring out where they needed to be at what time in order to do it. She informed me (and her cousin) that they would spend the day at interPLAY, and that she had a plan that would allow them to take in everything she felt was a must-see. The funny thing, of course, is that this is exactly what I did when I got my interPLAY program a few days ago. I sat and circled all I wanted to see, and then actually sat down and wrote a small schedule so I would know where I needed to be at what time, and what tickets to pick up each morning (which I am anticipating will be a breeze with my snazzy $39 interPLAY pass).

My daughter's choices revolve heavily around street performers like the Aerial Angels, a group she has been seeing since they first began coming to interPLAY and who have become true and steadfast role models for her (she even attended the Aerial Angels-associated Starfish Circus Camp that Events Wood Buffalo brought to Fort Mac a couple of years ago, and it ignited a fire in her for street performing). My choices lean more towards the plays (I am so looking forward to "One Man MacBeth", and "Castle in the Sky") and the interPLAY Film Festival (and well, some visits to the beer garden, too).

We plan to be there when it all begins this morning, and to spend pretty much the entire day at interPLAY. My niece is a bit amazed at our enthusiasm for this event, but after last night I think she gets it, too. There is something magical about seeing a dull city street transformed by tents and stages into a full-on street festival and party. Today I introduce her to the world of interPLAY, and tomorrow night I will introduce two adult friends, both originally from other countries, to the concept of a Canadian arts and culture festival.

People, I've said before how much I love interPLAY, and I'm going to say it again. This is an event that only rolls around once a year, and I'm not sure if we realize how very fortunate we are to have it happen right here in our city. This is the opportunity to see the arts and culture that Fort Mac has to offer, and frankly it is an astonishing sight. Every year during interPLAY I think about all those people over the last decade who have said disparaging things to me about Fort Mac - about how it must be so boring, and about how it is nothing but a "working town" with no arts and no culture - and I laugh at how very wrong they are. I wish I could send them all an invitation to interPLAY and say "Come see this - because this is my Fort Mac". So, c'mon out to interPLAY - and enjoy! See ya there, Fort Mac.

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