Festival Island

St. Patrick’s Island has only been open a matter of weeks, but one thing became clear at the official opening ceremony September 15. Not only is the new regional park already a beloved part of Calgary, it’s a heck of a place for a festival.

The opening ceremony, attended by Mayor Nenshi, dignitaries and partners, celebrated several years of intensive restoration that have transformed St. Patrick’s Island from a neglected and overgrown no man’s land into an already much-appreciated public mecca. And the island showed off its brains along with its newfound beauty as the site of the Beakerhead Festival, a fusion of art and science that runs from September 16-20.

Since its reopening on July 31, Calgarians by the droves have been discovering the restorative beauty of St. Patrick’s Island. The revitalized island has quickly become a giant backyard playground for East Villagers, both longtime residents and newcomers, and a magnet for all Calgarians eager to explore the natural beauty and family-friendly amenities of this inner city island.

The island has found its new vocation – and much of its original vegetation and geography, with a few twists – thanks to W and Civitas. The two landscaping firms, from New York and Denver, teamed up to make the island an original yet natural place for Calgarians. Principles Mark Johnson and Barbara Wilks were in attendance, and delighted at the way Calgarians have adopted the space and made it their own.

Certainly, Beakerhead has made itself very much at home on the island for the duration of the festival. Visitors can’t miss The Fabulist, a 35-foot inflatable public art installation that greets aliens and thrills visitors from high atop The Rise at the centre of the island. Created by the imaginative local glassblowing collective the Bee Kingdom, The Fabulist is part of A String (Theory) of Incredible Encounters, a five kilometre-long pop-up gallery spanning the city during Beakerhead.

“The Fabulist is perfectly situated on St. Patrick’s Island,” says Jay Ingram, co-founder of Beakerhead, “a delightful character that sparks imagination and is a beacon for activity in the park throughout Beakerhead.” 

The Rise, the natural amphitheatre at the centre of St. Patrick’s Island, is more than just a great home base for an artificially intelligent robot greeter for aliens. It’s also been designed as an idyllic setting for community celebrations, performances and movies in the park. Toward the eastern end of the island, the small amphitheatre at Confluence Plaza is a perfect locale for performances and other programs throughout the summer.

St. Patrick’s Island will be the place to be during Calgary’s vibrant festival season.