2022 Edmonton Fringe Theatre grounds review

It's been a few days a couple months -- wait, a couple months???? -- since I promised that I would post additional 2022 Edmonton Fringe content.

I really should get on that.

This year I didn't get around to seeing any plays, but did spend...checks notes...three days at the Fringe grounds this year. It was...okay...

This was the first year the festival had legitimately been held in the era of the Alberta Tailgating Law (technically, unlike Ontario's law it was a change in the regulations at the discretion of the Minister; technically-technically that change was quietly made in the spring of 2019 but the 2019 Fringe grounds were already planned and it was deemed too late to change them), so the biggest difference of course is no more beer gardens.

This had some positives and some negatives. They also no longer had to use the "buy a ticket and carry it 10 feet to a bartender" system, however in practice lines were worse as the volunteers running the bar had to also be capable of both operating the machines and helping the (surprisingly large and young) numbers of people who in 2022 still haven't figured out how they operate. Also, possibly due to being out of practice (or my own memory of days gone by being too optimistic) it seemed like the concept of queuing up for the drinks was more than a lot of people could handle. You'd be in a line of people lined up roughly halfway between two people with payment machines (one of them awkwardly close to a table) with dozens of people in long lines clearly waiting for something, and you'd constantly get this green arrow jackass just assume that the long line must not be for that spot because otherwise they'd be lined up directly behind it standing over tables: it cannot possibly be that the person at the front of the line would go to whichever of the two payment options opened first.

On the bright side, you could take your beer from the main (central) beer garden and walk all 'round the (central) grounds with it. For a while you could even walk onto 83rd Avenue until they realized they didn't have any "no alcohol beyond this point" along the south tip of the food vendors. It wasn't (sadly) a full free for all: the north sidewalk at 83rd avenue was the barrier going south, with the gating south of Orange Hall and the EPL was the barrier going north. This northern barrier was the one which really made absolutely no sense: for one thing, several of the (unlucky) food vendors was north of the barrier: Maltz really wanted to eat at one of them, but we all had beers so we couldn't, so he had to settle (and the vendor lost one of probably several customers). Further north of Orange Hall was the TransAlta fringe patio, which presumably was selling the exact same beers at the exact same price. North of there was (after an interlude we'll get to) another beer tent, in the more traditional fenced off style, up where the old volunteer beer tent was a decade and change ago. Other than the streetcar tracks, I'm unsure why exactly you couldn't take your beer all the way between the two beer gardens: or for that matter south to the wine garden. Possibly some legal mumbo jumbo crossing the roadway/railway despite both being within the Fringe grounds and effectively closed off.

Do you remember what used to be a mainstay just north of the TransAlta Arts Barn? I mean besides that tent where some guy literally kept showing other men his cock? That's right, another beer garden...some may argue, especially on the hotter days when the trees provided much needed shade and some grass amongst the concrete, the best beer garden.

That's right, it's gone. Kaput. Vanished into the aether. So what's in it's place? Absolutely nothing!

Isn't that just a kick in the teeth? As a result of this and the continued now decade-long trend of nothing but maybe a food truck or tent between the furthest north beer garden and KidsFringe, the grounds are considerably shrunk: if not in a literal square footage sense at least where people are and what they do. The "fringe grounds" now are basically just Gazebo Park and that little patch of 83rd Avenue.

It's unclear how much of this is what they wanted, and how much is what they settled for. It's worth remembering that you have to plan this festival months (indeed close to a year) in advance, and while it feels like a lifetime ago now it's entirely possible they were having to coordinate details such as number of volunteers and supply contracts around the same time the Freedom Convoy was in Ottawa changing the world's opinions about lockdowns. Buskers were few and far between, and it's worth noting that the Fringe crowd tends to be anti-freedom and pro-lockdown, so it's possible nobody wanted to arrange to have even less of the much-ballyhooed "social distancing" than we already had. Finally don't forget that the buskers don't just appear out of thin air: some of them (the pretty goth girl molesters at the very least) have to come from overseas in general and Australia/New Zealand are popular origins. Those buskers also have to plan long ahead, and let's not forget that Aussies were trapped in their island prison until...oh, look, that same February that Tamara Lich and Pat King were waking up the planet.

Finally, there was a nice isle of food trucks which was good to see, including a popular Red Indian stall where you could get bannock and bison smokies. I don't know how the food is, they wouldn't serve me despite me pointing out to them I've already given them billions.