Category Archives: North America

At ATP’s Slipper: A Distinctly Calgarian Cinderella Story

You know that feeling when you are with a group, and someone begins telling a story and it feels like everyone in the group was there except you? The storyteller says, “remember that time that hilarious thing happened?” and then everyone else agrees and they start finishing each other’s sentences, and all laughing like crazy, and you just stand there, wondering what the joke is, and then when you finally get the chance to ask, someone says, “oh, you had to be there.” Being on the outside of an inside joke is not a very nice feeling. Chalk full of rib-tickling inside jokes that anyone who lives in Calgary will laugh at, ATP’s newest production of Slipper: A Distinctly Calgarian Cinderella Story is the perfect play for every Calgarian.

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Ellie Heath as Cinderella. Photo by Erin Wallace

Written and directed by Calgarians, and sticking with ATP’s MO for all new Canadian plays, this play is so, truly Calgarian. Slipper is performed in panto style, so requires audience participation. Every time someone on stage says a specific word, the audience yells back with such enthusiasm it hurts. Two lucky audience members were even called on stage to help the story along! The evil stepsisters— hisssssssss— could not have been funnier and, more modern – we all know people who speak like just like that. Their ability to speak over each other was perfectly rehearsed and added to their joint personality. All of the actors did such a great job including the audience and reacting to our responses.

I love theatre that includes some kind of magical aspect and I’m a sucker for the effects that make it so. The magic, the smoke, the clothes! Vancouver-based Jenifer Darbellay really outdid herself with costume design. It was all such a spectacle! And once the fog from the fog machine cleared, the story of Slipper modernized the traditional tale of Cinderella, bringing it decidedly into this century. A play full of jokes, magic and an excellent moral? What more could you ask for?

Slipper: A Distinctly Calgarian Cinderella Story is the perfect show for anyone of any age who likes magic, enjoys laughter, and loves Calgary. Thanks for the fun evening ATP! Thanks for being the muse, Calgary!

Slipper: A Distinctly Calgarian Cinderella Story runs until December 31!

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Ellie Heath as Cinderella. Photo by Erin Wallace

At the Brewmaster Feast with National and Whistler Brewing Company

Living in Calgary I’ve learned many things: the incredible power of community, the strength that comes from diversity, and the absolute magic of a chinook wind. When Calgary shows us its teeth and temperatures reach below 20 degrees, Calgarians flock indoors and wait patiently for that warm wind from the west. And what better activity to partake in, while escaping the frigid cold, than a beer tasting? My good friend, Natasha and I walked into National on 8th and entered the Tap Room. What caught my eye first was the inadvertently sexual promotional video for Whistler Brewing Company being projected on a screen at the front of the room. Men pulling pints, hoses squirting water, malt and barley being poured into giant barrels— all in slow motion…

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We took our seats at one of the tables, took turns trying on the Christmassy table decorations, and allowed Don, the rep for Whistler Brewing Company, to take us on a trip down memory lane and tell us about the origins of the brewery. In 1989, when the Whistler Brewing Company originated, it was one of the first craft breweries of its kind in British Columbia. They pride themselves on keeping the perfect balance of tradition and progression, and brew authentic craft beer that really speaks for itself.

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The tasting began. The chefs at National on 8th took turns explaining to us what we were eating, and Natasha Pieskar, the brand manager for National, explained each food and beer pairing. The evening is a blur of decadent AF food— foie gras, bacon-wrapped paté, elk carpaccio, halibut in Dugléré sauce (whatever that means), white bean cassoulet, and that’s only half of it— and deliciously paired beers. My favourites were the Chestnut Ale, which was sweet and caramel-y; the Cashmere India Session Ale, which was citrusy and grapefruity and paired with the crab and truffle ravioli; and the Black Tusk Ale, which has an entire trophy case dedicated to it and its many national and international awards. We also learned about all the in-house prep the kitchen team at National does. House-made bacon, mustard, paté, sauces, all of it was made by this incredible team!

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Natasha and I ate it all and felt like royalty. The food plates kept coming, the beers seemed bottomless, and the company around us was such fun. We sat next to Hayden and Jill, two beer connoisseurs who were just as excited as we were by the plates of food adorning our table. It was all just so delicious. Once again, the team at National wowed me and my tastebuds. Next time I am buying beer, you can bet your bottom dollar I will be walking out with a few bottles from the Whistler Brewing Company.

Thanks for the food, National, thanks for the beer WBC! And thanks for the escape from the cold, Calgary!

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Partying with Margaret Cho

There is always so much to do on a Saturday night in Calgary. The Saturday night activity seekers know this. They go find a rad DJ playing sick tunes and dance the night away, or they head to one of the many bars in the city with their pals, and have a drink or two, or maybe they want to take in live music, theatre, or comedy show at one of the many venues in the city. But I ask those people this: why, fair Saturday night activity seekers, choose only one activity, when you could go somewhere and do all three?!

On Saturday, November 19, Calgary welcomed, with open arms and legs, the hilariously vulgar, and borderline offensive comedian, Margaret Cho, and the fine folks at Arts Commons threw a wild pre-show party to whet the appetites of the audience. What you are about to read contains stories of female musicians singing about scissoring, drag queens and their ‘tucks,’ the funky fresh stylings of a funky DJ, and a whole bunch of dick jokes. Please be advised that this blog post, much like the live show, contains mature content. Audience discretion is advised.

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The Wrong Kind of Girls opened the pre-show. They are “Canada’s preeminent queer-feminist-ukulele comedy band” (Check out their website). The songs they sang were hilarious, poking fun at tropes and stereotypes surrounding sexuality, making fun of awkward moments in and out of the bedroom, and even had scissors to demonstrate with! I bought another glass of wine when their set was over. On my way to the bar, I passed Lyndon Navalta, an artist currently in residence at Arts Commons, making buttons for people. ‘Cheeky Buttons’ they were called, and cheeky they were! Folks walked away from his table proudly sporting buttons on their lapels— “saucy bitch” and “power bottom.”

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The music became louder and I turned my attention back to the stage. The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Chinook Arch was introduced. Four drag queens, who towered over the audience in their 6-inch stilettos, took turns on stage, lip syncing for their lives, dancing, posing, even cartwheeling. I stood there in awe, just marvelling at the quality and persistence of their master tucks.

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Last, but not least, DJ Donna Dada brought the pre-party to a funky close with some tunes that were impossible NOT to dance to. The queens came back out and danced with the audience, people were bumping and grinding on each other: it was a party.

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Selene Luna opened for Margaret Cho. She marched out on stage, and immediately had the audience laughing. She talked about politics, she talked about trying to have sex on a memory foam mattress, and she talked about Mexico, where she is from. My sides were splitting. Margaret Cho came out and I think my mouth was gaping open for her entire set. The jokes this woman made were racy, vulgar, and deliciously provocative. There is nothing I love more than a Korean-American woman regaling me with stories about the biggest penis she has ever seen. My face hurt from smiling and my sides hurt from laughing.

Thanks for the pre-show party Arts Commons, and thanks for the delightfully vulgar evening, Calgary!

Doing Embroidermation at the Esker Foundation

We have all heard of embroidery. Embroidery is that beautiful needle and thread-based pasttime your mother/grandma/great grandma/women on Downton Abbey did. It has recently made a bit of a comeback in the world of the hip arts-and-craftser. We have come a long way from embroidered doilies, pillowcases, and aprons though. If you search “sassy embroidery” on Etsy, you are sure to find some hilariously vulgar and confusingly sophisticated home decor. We have also all heard of the art of animation. What you may not be aware of, however, are the many different types of animation. Some know animation as big-budget Pixar movies done entirely on computers, others know it as a raunchy flip book their older sibling showed them, and some know it as the stop-motion animation film of your Barbies you tried to make as a kid. “Embroidery and animation are great,” you might be thinking, “but where the ‘F’ are you going with this, Beth?” Well let me tell you.

One fine Saturday afternoon, I found myself at the Esker Foundation with my fine friend, Natasha. We were there to take part in the Embroidermation workshop. That’s right, Embroidermation. This is the art of animation in which each frame is embroidered. Folks, we live in a world where anything is possible. We were introduced to Project Space artist, Caitlin Thompson, who took us through examples of Embroidermation, a term coined by animator Nina Paley, and I was in awe. Everything from a 5 second looping hand-stitched GIF to a full length machine-stitched music video. The music video for Tharsis Sleeps, a song by heavy metal band, Throne, was part of a cool Kickstarter project and those who donated were gifted one of the frames from the animation. Once I and every other participant picked our jaws up off the floor, Caitlin explained how the workshop would go.

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Each participant was given a printed image of an animation frame Caitlin designed, a booklet with the instructions of different embroidery stitches to practice, and the instruction to stitch whatever we wanted! Total creative freedom! The printed image was of flowers, and the original animation had the flowers opening and closing. I began simply with a backstitch, and spent some time figuring out how to make lines. Caitlin explained that this stitch is perfect for words. I surprised even myself as I started to stitch legible letters to spell how I was feeling: H-O-O-R-A-Y-! I polished up a blanket stitch, a satin stitch, and a fly stitch. There I was, sitting in a direct sunbeam, chatting with Natasha, stitching away. How civilized.

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The time came for Caitlin to collect our frames and combine them to make an animation. It was absolutely bizarre and kind of hard to watch, because the stitches were totally random, but because we embroidered on top of a printed image from an already made animation, you could see the flowers in the background, opening and closing. Thanks for the Embroidermation, Esker! Thanks for the crafty day, Calgary!

The Esker Foundation has multiple workshops and events to take part in. Head to eskerfoundation.com to find out more, and sign yourself up!

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At ATP’s New Musical, Fortune Falls

Catalyst Theatre and Alberta Theatre Projects have partnered to create the totally mesmerizing, beautifully haunting musical, Fortune Falls. This original work by Jonathan Christenson and Beth Graham, tells the story of a young man and his dream to grow up and work at the chocolate factory in his town. But this, ladies and gentlemen, is no lighthearted story of Charlie Bucket and his golden ticket. This is no fun little tale of the quirky Mr. Wonka and his mind boggling methods. No, Fortune Falls takes the audience on the tumultuous journey of Everett Liddelman as he reaches for his dreams and learns more about the chocolate factory and its biggest secrets.

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Photo Credit: David Cooper 2016

The production has unbelievable sound and lighting design. The booming bass, the intricate and numerous sound effects, and the power of each actor’s singing voice ensured goosebumps rippled up and down my whole body multiple times. In a chat session after the show, actor Braydon Dowler-Coltman said, “it’s as if the technical aspects in the show become their own character.” He is right! The songs, the sounds, the lights, and the dark, all tell their own story between the lines of the script.

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Photo Credit: David Cooper 2016

Fortune Falls is a new play, never before staged. This means the cast and crew were to be flexible during the entire rehearsal process. The show was, and may still be, always changing. Throughout the rehearsal process, lines were cut, characters were altered, and no aspect of the show was safe from change. Laurel Green, the Production Dramaturg, and an Artistic Associate for ATP, said, “it takes a very special kind of actor to work on new work like this.”

All in all, I say Fortune Falls is a must-see. Any play that has me frightfully jumping out of my seat one minute, and swallowing back tears the next, has to be a good time. Fortune Falls runs until November 5. Only a few more chances to be wowed! Let ATP and Catalyst Theatre take you and all your senses on a journey. Thanks for the show, Calgary!

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Photo Credit: David Cooper 2016

Eating BBQ at Trolley 5, Calgary, AB

There are so many incredible restaurants in Calgary. Truly, there are. So many, in fact, it is hard to keep up! If ever I wonder where I should go for a meal, there is only one source I trust to send me to the right place— my mother. Mom somehow knows about all the newest, trendiest, and most delicious restaurants in the city. So, naturally, for her birthday, we went to the newest, trendiest, most delicious restaurant on 17th Ave. SW, Trolley 5 Restaurant & Brewery.

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We sat upstairs in the wide-open restaurant, and I perused the menu, my eyes drawn immediately to the barbecue section. I laughed at my dad’s somewhat jokey suggestion of sharing the big barbecue platter, the Pit Master’s Platter, for four people. Mom just rolled her eyes. When the server came over, I asked, “what is Trolley 5 known for?” Her answer was music to my ears, “definitely our barbecue.” Awesome. We talked about sharing a few plates, a few different meats, and maybe a salad (although who are we kidding). In the end, the somewhat jokey suggestion of sharing the Pit Master’s Platter for four ended up being not so jokey, and we told our server this is what we desired. Salad shmalad.

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The platter arrived. Both my dad and my eyes lit up. Chicken, smoked turkey, ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, beans, potato salad, coleslaw, and cornbread. Holy moly. We made a promise to each other in that moment that we would make sure we took some food home. We couldn’t possibly eat all of this meat. The platter, served alongside Trolley 5’s fleet of house-made barbecue sauces ensured our mouths were watering.

The meal was delicious! The brisket was so tender, it didn’t even require chewing, the cornbread and beans were mouth watering, and the pulled pork was a perfect example of why I am not vegetarian. Sure enough, we could not finish the meal, which relieved mom. We packaged the rest of our meat up and I dreamed about the amazing meals I was going to have the next few days.

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Alongside the ludicrously tasty barbecue, Trolley 5 is the newest brewery in town. Growlers, that hang on the trolley snaking through the restaurant and over the bar are, of course, for sale, and for the true beer connoisseurs, brewery tours are available for booking.

Thanks for the delicious beer and barbecue, Trolley 5!

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Eating Poko Popcorn

Popcorn truly is the perfect snack. When watching a movie, you don’t want your snack to be too loud and crunchy as to over power the sound from your TV— popcorn! When having a few beers with friends, you don’t want your snack to be too salty, or you wake up the next morning with swollen fingers and a numb tongue— popcorn! Riding a bicycle, walking down the street, laying in the sun, paddling a canoe, climbing a mountain, holding a baby, soaking in a bath tub— popcorn, popcorn, popcorn!

Poko Popcorn is the newest snack to ‘pop’ up in our city, and to introduce the hippest and coolest new snack food to Calgary, Poko held a tasting event at National on 17th, where six of Poko’s flavours were paired with local brews served by National. I know, a popcorn and beer tasting event— this is what dreams are made of, people. We met Cam, the man with a dream that one day people could buy popcorn that is air popped, tumbled with flavour, and served warm. I could listen to this man talk about popcorn all day. I have never seen anyone more passionate about snacks in my whole life. We tried six flavours, salt and butter, white cheddar, salt & vinegar, cheesy dill pickle, spicy jalapeno cheddar, and salted caramel. They were paired with six beers, that Natasha Pieskar, the brand manager for National, chose for us.

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We learned that the word “Poko” doesn’t really mean anything, it is just a radical name that’s easy to remember, and fun to say. All the flavours Poko serves were created by Cam and his team. When deciding on the white cheddar flavours, they tested nearly 40 different kinds of white cheddar. All the flavour decisions were made by friends and families. “What do you guys think?” asked Cam, “I love butter,” said one of the attendees.

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The evening was a blur of popcorn, beer, and laughter. Ryan and I ate every last kernel, and drank every last drop. My favourite flavour, the white cheddar, was paired with the delicious Open Road American Brown Ale from Alberta’s own Troubled Monk Brewery. It was like eating a grilled cheese sandwich. “Nothing has the kind of mouth feel this does,” said Cam.

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Poko Popcorn has four locations in Calgary and is hoping to expand across the country— just what Canada needs, more popcorn! So next time you’re craving the perfect snack, do yourself a ‘flavour’ and go Poko.

 

At Illuminasia at the Calgary Zoo

Much to some Calgarian’s dismay, the days in Calgary are beginning to get shorter and shorter. Summer is coming to an end/ended quite abruptly with the snow we had over the weekend, and we must begin to adapt again to living in the dark. One of the things Calgary is really good at, among our incredible patios, our absurd number of festivals, and our beautiful winter markets, is lighting up the dark. And what better way to light up the dark than with beautiful lanterns?!

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For the second year in a row, the Calgary Zoo is the host of Illuminasia, Lantern and Garden Festival. The festival showcases authentic Chinese lanterns that are arranged throughout the grounds, and guides visitors through the Four Noble Plants, representing the four seasons. “In Chinese Art, the Four Noble Plants are represented by the orchid, bamboo, the chrysanthemum and the plum blossom. These four plants represent the seasons and how they unfold from one season to another.” — illuminasiacalgaryzoo.com

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Our journey began in spring. Snails, blossoms, mushrooms, and various flowers lit up the path. In summer, we found more flowers, and the most colourful animals. We gasped at the colours of the flowers, and the sheer number of lanterns. Autumn colours illuminated the maple trees and the multiple moose lanterns, and the real life bunny that grazed nearby made us laugh. The penguins waved to us from the winter section, and the twinkly trees behind them were captivating. It was all so very magical. So magical, in fact, I had to dust off my thesaurus to find enough synonyms for the word!

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As if a spellbinding evening, lit by bewitching lanterns wasn’t enough, the admission to Illuminasia helps to support the Calgary Zoo’s conservation efforts to protect species at risk, here at home and around the world. Illuminasia is on until October 16, so dust off your winter boots, scarves, and toques, invite your family, your friends, your lover(s), and head down to the Calgary Zoo to experience an enchanting evening. Thanks for the beguiling night, Calgary Zoo!

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Making Marbled Mugs with Maker YYC

If you’ve ever searched “DIY” on the internet, the results that appear make you think that you have to be a professional ‘arts and crafts-er’ in order to successfully create anything. I have often tried DIY projects myself, following closely the instructions, but what I create is not as much a beautiful DIY craft as it is a mess of paper, pipe cleaners, glue, and often Band-Aids. When I saw that the next Maker YYC workshop was painting marbled mugs, I had little hope for myself. But then I remembered the amazing crafts I have successfully created with Kat and Sarah, the cofounders of Maker YYC, at other workshops, and that I would have nothing to lose if I just went for it.

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Picture from @makerYYC

Cut to a rainy Tuesday evening in Calgary. I head to Home & Away on 17th Ave. SW. to join in on the Marbled Mug workshop. I was so excited to paint my own mug. We began with a bit of an ice breaker, in which we were to draw a portrait of a friend without looking at the paper. It was zany and hilarious. I was quite proud of the portrait I drew of Jennifer, my “blind portrait” partner, and the activity really got me ready for some hardcore crafting!

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Kat gave us some quick instructions so we knew what we were actually supposed to be doing, and let us test a few colour combinations and techniques. I, and a few others, struggled with making our test pages take the marbling effect. The lovely lady I sat across from, Michelle, turned out to be the marbling guru, and would give us all pointers. We all watched in awe as she dipped her test pages in her water dish and effortlessly pulled out the most epic marbled designs.

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Picture from @makerYYC

I practiced with a few different colours on a few more test pages, and finally found the combination I liked. I don’t know if it was the little imaginary Kat who sits on my shoulder and encourages me along when I am about to try something creative, or if it was actually Kat as she walked through the tables, “just go for it!”

I created my silver and red concoction, took a deep breath, and took the plunge— literally plunged my mug into the water. I smiled as I pulled it out of the dish. It was painted with a perfectly imperfect silver and red marble design. I sat there and stared at my mug in total shock and awe. Stephanie, another mug maker, congratulated me on my success.

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My marbled mug!

By the end of the workshop, my hands were covered in paint, and we were all a little loopy from the fumes and had big ol’ grins on our faces. After a quick coat of shellac, our mugs and matching saucers were ready to go. I had an excellent time making my mug. I think the Maker YYC experience is one everyone should have. It was a totally rad workshop, and I can’t wait for the next one. Thanks for the mugs, Maker YYC! Thanks for the radical craft night, Calgary!

 

At Beakerhead!

While sitting on my balcony drinking tea one Wednesday evening, I received a text message from my good friend, Natasha. “Come to the Lougheed House right now,” it said. Without questioning, I put on some shoes, grabbed my keys, and was out the door. For one evening, the Lougheed House was home to ‘Spectral Illuminations’, Emmedia’s site-specific projection project, that illuminated the windows, walls, ceilings, and furniture of the building. A fire place projected onto a window made it look like the outside was burning when standing in the living room, there were eerie metallic bubbles emerging from a light fixture on a wall and disappearing into nothing, and the psychedelic colours being projected on the outside of the house kept us mesmerized.

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On Thursday, I went on an art walk with Ryan. We began in East Village, with a relaxing few minutes in Bee Kingdom Glass’ Saturnian, the “inflatable robotic exploratory humpback-narwhal hybrid”. We watched as people followed instructions and cracked the codes at the BASS Ship and created bone-vibrating noises that appeared to be communicating with aliens. The BASS Ship is the first project to come out of the Beakerhead Big Bang Residency Program. We strolled past the Sandbox of Human Ingenuity and watched as people unlocked their imaginations in the sand. Next, we drive down to Inglewood and marvelled at Pedro Estrellas’ and Filthy Luker’s Tentacles reaching out of the McGill Block. I personally think we should have tentacles all year round. Our art walk, as many do, concluded with dinner. We scarfed down a few pizzas from Without Papers in Inglewood and deemed the evening a success.

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Kids flying kites!

On Friday afternoon, Ryan and I had high hopes, so to speak, of going up in a hot air balloon at The Sky’s The Limit event on International Avenue. As it turned out, the wind was too strong for the hot air balloon, but to the delight of many Beakerhead-goers, the wind was just strong enough to send their homemade kites soaring! We enjoyed a root beer in the sun, and watched the kids and kids-at-heart fly their kites and stare in amazement.

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Me and my new robot boyfriend
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Me running across water
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Waiting for the shark to cross the street.

When we were told the wind was too strong for the balloon, we decided to continue our Beakerhead scavenger hunt, and head downtown to catch the tail end of the Four-to-Six events happening on Stephen Avenue. I held hands with a giant robot, waited for a shark to go by before crossing the street, and waved at the people in the human-sized hamster wheel. We found a crowd of people and stopped. A trough in the middle of the sidewalk, filled with equal parts water and cornstarch, was the main attraction. This mixture is liquid, but when force is applied to it, it acts like a solid— if someone walks slowly they will sink into the water. If they run and stomp quickly, they will walk above it. I took a turn. I looked down, not believing I was about to walk on water. The man nearby told me to just stomp quickly, and counted me down. I did it! I walked across water! It was so rad! After a quick bite to eat at National on 8th, we made our way to Central Memorial Park to see the Nibbles! Big, inflated baby bunnies lit up the park. We laughed at the children all playing with the blow-up carrots and lettuce, and sat in awe as the lights changed colours.

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Ryan with a carrot, me with my carrot holding friend

Phew! Not done yet! Saturday night was the grande finale of my Beakerhead experience. I met up with Natasha, Nick, Chad, and Andy, and we head to Bridgeland, where science’s ultimate street party was going down. There were bursts of flame, lasers, LEDs, and actual robots that shot actual fire; what else would you expect from a science street party? We stood, entranced by the LED balloons that glowed and pulsed to the beat of the music filling the field. We stood in awe under the giant inflatable space bear. We laughed as the Science Busters taught us all about combustion and then made the ‘Balls of Science’ explode above our heads. We took in some music at the stage, enjoyed the LED finger lights we bought, and went home with giant, art, engineering, and science loving smiles on our faces.

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Space bear!

Thanks for the out of this world weekend, Beakerhead! Thanks for the art, science, and engineering smash up, Calgary!

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My beautiful Beakerhead friends and I