Sled Island Block Party
Audience at the 2016 Sled Island Block Party in Inglewood | Photo: Caitlind Brown

Spring Festival Guide 2017

The melt is on and Calgary’s festivals are heating up

Amy Jo Espetveidt

Many consider summer to be Calgary’s festival season, but the spring brings a number of great, annual treats worth checking out. From inclusive visual arts and independent theatre to film and street festivals, there’s something for everyone this season.

Here’s what we’re hitting up:


Poster for Taking Flight 2017
Taking Flight

Until April 8, 2017
University of Calgary  (2500 University Dr. NW)
Free – $15

An interdisciplinary celebration of dance, drama, and music at the University of Calgary, the School of Creative and Performing Arts is ready to take off with its annual festival of student work.

This is My City Festival

April 3 – 27, 2017
Multiple locations

For the fifth consecutive year, This is My City Art Society presents this interdisciplinary festival of art from the margins. It all kicks off with several great visual art exhibits and continues with a lineup of film screenings, music, and workshops. All programs are free of charge and all are welcome, donations are gratefully accepted.

Make It Show YYC

April 7 – 9, 2017
Big Four Building (1410 Olympic Way SE)

Returning to Calgary Make It Calgary is back and better than ever. With 175 local makers and artists taking part, find clothing, accessories, art, home decor, delectable eats, and much more at this one-of-a-kind sale.

Reactor Improv Festival

April 13 – 15, 2017
Rose Room, Alexandra Centre (922 9th Ave. SE)
$5 – $10

A three-night improv extravaganza, join The Kinkonauts as it toasts 10 years with the launch of a new improv festival. The lineup includes a reunion show and special guest performers.

Calgary Performing Arts Festival

April 16 – May 6, 2017
Mount Royal University (4825 Mount Royal Gate SW) & Webber Academy Performing Arts Centre (1515 93rd St. SW)
Free – $20

An integral part of the Calgary arts community, this annual festival encourages classical and contemporary music and speech arts performance among amateur students of all ages and skill levels. With over 12,000 performers, be sure to check out the showcase concerts including the Stars of the Festival Concert on May 7.

Calgary Underground Film Festival

April 17 – April 23, 2017
Globe Cinema  (617 8th Ave. SW)
Free – $40

Celebrating the best in international independent cinema, the Calgary Underground Film Festival returns with seven days of unique films including lively Q&As, shorts packages, the CUFFcade, and a special 15th anniversary screening of Fubar.

420 Music & Arts Festival

April 20 – 22, 2017
Distortion (3828 Macleod Trail SE)
$21 – $77

Yes, you read that right, Calgary has its own 420 festival dedicated to stoner rock and the culture that has developed around the genre. Headlining the inaugural event is Wo Fat, marking the Texas-based band’s first Canadian appearance.

Calgary Spoken Word Festival

April 22 – 25, 2017
Multiple locations
$15 – $50

Love the art of the word? Then you need to check out this festival. Hosted by the Calgary Spoken Word Society, this year’s lineup features four days of performances and workshops in celebration of poetry and music.

Artists meet fans at the Calgary Expo

Fans gets some shopping done at the Calgary Expo | Photo: Kat Slump

Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo

April 27 – 30, 2017
Stampede Park  (1410 Olympic Way SE)
$8 – $375

Get ready to get your nerd on! The Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo returns for 2017 with four days of celebrity guests, creators, cosplay stars, exhibitors, and so much more. The second largest pop culture show in Canada, over 100,000 people attended in 2016 and this year’s guest lineup includes stars like Jeremy Renner, John Cusack, James Marsters, Mara Wilson, and Steven Yeun.

Cannonball! A Festival of Youth Theatre

April 27 – May 7, 2017
West Village Theatre (2007 10th Ave. SW)
$5 per play

Calgary Young People’s Theatre brings back its festival of all-youth theatre for the second year! Welcoming plays written, directed, designed, and performed by kids, it’s a great chance to support young artists as they find their voice.

Hidden Gems Film Festival

April 28 – May 7, 2017
Alberta College of Art + Design (1407 14th Ave. NW)
$15 – $95

This little festival always programs the best in cutting edge, independent cinema from India—and the 2017 lineup is as varied and eclectic as ever. Don’t miss this year’s Hidden Gems.

UN International Jazz Day

April 30, 2017
Multiple locations

Countries around the world are celebrating UN International Jazz Day this Sunday and Calgary’s own jazz collaborative, JazzYYC, is ready to party with a day full of free music and activities.


Calgary High School Drama Festival

May 3 – 5, 2017
University of Calgary (2500 University Dr. NW)

With almost 800 students participating in this annual festival, the public gets a chance to see up-and-coming stage stars as part of its evening programming. The combination of meeting like-minded students, seeing their productions, and working under the guidance of theatre professionals creates a memorable and enriching experience for all.

African Film Festival

May 11 – 13, 2017
Globe Cinema (617 8th Ave. SW)
$10 – $35

Celebrate the best of African cinema and join Afrikadey for four films that will have you laughing, crying, and cheering.

The Way Out West Fest

May 11 – 14, 2017
Multiple locations
Ticket prices vary

A modern festival celebrating the west, this new offering looks at the historic and contemporary lure of western heritage through paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture, food, drink, and music. There’s even a chance to attend a cowboy church service with pastor and cowboy poet Byrn Thiessen.

Calgary Arab Film Nights

May 11 – 14, 2017
Festival Hall  (1215 10th Ave. SE)
$25 – $90

Featuring a variety of movies that show everyday life in the Arab world, don’t miss the fifth annual Calgary Arab Film Nights, presented by the Calgary Arab Arts and Culture Society.

Mother’s Day Festival

May 14, 2017, 10:00am – 8:00pm
Olympic Plaza (228 8th Ave. SE)
Free, family-friendly

Organized by Calgary’s South Asian Canadian community, enjoy live music, Bollywood dances, Bhangra, and much more at this inaugural festival.

Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival Poster

Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival

May 18 – 27, 2017
Multiple locations
$10 – $100

A festival for the fabulous! Get ready Calgary, Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival is back and better than ever with a smoking lineup of panels, parties, Q&As, galas, and screenings.

Calgary International Children’s Festival

May 24 – 27, 2017
Arts Commons (205 8th Ave. SE) & Olympic Plaza (228 8th Ave. SE)
Free – $17

Explore, journey, and discover with the Calgary International Children’s Festival featuring the very best in performing arts for young audiences. From a tale about a space-travelling mouse to Québec’s Théâtre de L’Oeil’s enchanting adaptation of The Snow Queen, there’s so much to check out.


May 25 – 27, 2017
Knox United Church (506 4th St. SW)

An essential celebration of Bach, Matthew Halls, the director of the internationally-renowned Oregon Bach Festival, leads the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra for this annual festival.

Canadian International Fashion Film Festival

May 26 – 28, 2017
Multiple locations
$20 – $150

For the second year this festival takes over downtown Calgary with a packed schedule of screenings, awards, and parties aimed at fashion film lovers and influencers in the industry.


May 26 – 28, 2017
The Yellow Warehouse (1390 17th Ave. SE)
$50 – $625

This annual gathering has turned into an immersive cultural experience, bringing together the best of Canada’s emerging fashion designers, rising artists, musical performers, and culinary talents.


Empathy Week

June 1 – 7, 2017
Multiple locations
Free – $20

Humainologie’s seven-day festival promotes empathy, connection, and the recognition of our shared humanity. Programming includes LABELLED, a multi-media production, film, and exhibit dedicated to Thomas Poulsen.

Spur Calgary 2017

June 2 – 4, 2017
Multiple locations

Spur launches it fourth Calgary festival on the topic of risk—continuing a conversation started in November 2016. Subjects include geopolitics, environment, energy, food, health, culture, economics, security, and education.

Rhubarb Fest YYC

June 3, 2017, 11:00am – 5:00pm
Southwood Community Hall (11 Sackville Dr. SW)

This family friendly festival located in Southwood reaches out to all surrounding communities to join in on the fun! There is something for everyone at this fun little gathering including performances by Steel & Timber, Chris Austman, Mariel Buckley, and more.

Panel One Comic Creator Festival

June 3, 2017, 11:00 – 7:00pm
Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association (1320 5th Ave. NW)

After the success of 2016, Panel One Comics Society brings back this one-day festival featuring Canadian comic creators, workshops, and panels.

Calgary Ukrainian Festival

June 3 & 4, 2017
Acadia Recreation Complex (240 90th Ave. SE)
Free – $12.50

Celebrate with Calgary’s Ukrainian community and enjoy this festival full of food, dancing, live music, as well as arts and crafts.

Clothesline Festival & Art Sale

June 3 & 4, 2017, 10:00am – 4:00pm
Leighton Art Centre (282027 144 St. W)
Free, family-friendly

Go for a drive and visit the 42nd annual summer Clothesline Festival & Art Sale at the Leighton Art Centre. Discover more than 1,200 original works of art and fine craft while basking in one of the best views of the Foothills and the Rockies! Also on tap are artist demonstrations, family-friendly activities, and live music.

4th Street Lilac Festival

June 4, 2017, 10:00am – 6:00pm
4th St. SW (Between 13th Ave & Elbow Dr.)
Free, family-friendly

Each spring, thousands of attendees enjoy this array of musical talent, artisan vendors, live entertainment and much more. With over 500 vendors, there’s something that will interest everyone at this Calgary springtime staple.

IGNITE! Festival of Emerging Artists

June 6 – 10, 2017
Pumphouse Theatres (2140 Pumphouse Ave. SW)
$15 – $50

Dedicated to supporting, mentoring, and presenting emerging artists of all disciplines, this year’s lineup is looks eclectic and exciting with theatre, animation, dance, improv, interdisciplinary, and site specific offerings.

Kensington Foodie Festival

June 7 – 11, 2017
Throughout Kensington
Ticket prices vary

Kensington is excited to be hosting this inaugural festival in partnership with City Palate. To showcase the importance of supporting local, bars and restaurants in the neighbourhood will be hosting a variety of food related events including a chance to learn how to make your own Argentina Empanadas from scratch, meet the Modern Steak bull, try local beer at a tasting, and more.

Calgary Horror Con

June 9 – 11, 2017
Clarion Hotel (2120 16th Ave. NE)
$20 – $35

This convention is a gathering for the community of fans that love all forms of the horror genre—cinema, literature, performance, and art.

Suncor Energy Stage One Festival

June 9 – 24, 2017
Lunchbox Theatre (160, 115 9 Ave. SE)

See a series of staged readings and new works at this 30th annual offering from Lunchbox Theatre. Works include Trevor Schmidt’s Manband, Meredith Taylor-Parry’s Book Club II: The Next Chapter, and Jennifer Wynne Webber’s With Glowing Hearts.

Bridgeland Cultura Festival

June 10, 2017, 11:00am – 5:00pm
Bridgeland Riverside Community Association (917 Centre Ave. NE)

Head to Bridgeland for this one-day street festival showcasing the community’s culture, history, and diverse blend of character.

JazzYYC Summer Festival

June 15 – 18, 2017
Multiple locations
Ticket prices vary

With shows in all-ages venues throughout Inglewood, special concerts, and workshops at the National Music Centre, and a mainstage show at Mount Royal University’s TransAlta Pavillion, Calgary’s jazz society JazzYYC hosts its third annual Summer Festival.

YYC Lobster Fest

June 17 & 18, 2017
The Market on Macleod (7711 Macleod Trail SE)

Grab your favourite bib and start cracking, Billingsgate Seafood Market presents its scrumptious third annual festival featuring fresh seafood, live music, and family activities.

Just Acts: Youth Edition

June 21 – 24, 2017
Knox United Church (506 4th St. SW)
$10 – $15

If you’re familiar with Urban Stories Theatre and its Just Acts Play Fest, then this youth focused edition should be on your radar. Featuring new one-act plays written, directed, and performed by local artists, this edition features works from students aged 13 to 15.

HSY plays Tubby Dog

HSY plays Tubby Dog at last year’s Sled Island | Photo: Bobbi Barbarich

Sled Island

June 21 – 25, 2017
Multiple locations
Ticket prices vary

With over 250 bands as well as comedy, film, and visual art offerings, Sled Island is a must see for any festival fan. Headliners include dynamic prog of Anunnaki, grunge-pop stage sensations Borscht, unhinged industrial punks HSY, Halifax indie up-and-comers Not You, black metal purveyors Wilt, the experimental pop stylings of Yao Guai Cave, and many, many more.

Shakespeare by the Bow

June 20 – August 27, 2017
Prince’s Island Park (698 Eau Claire Ave. SW)

Theatre Calgary works with emerging actors and theatre talent for this outdoor show. In 2017, see Shakespeare’s As You Like It—a pastoral comedy about love, injustice, and forgiveness. Starring a company of Alberta’s up-and-coming actors, every performance is pay-what-you-will (no ticket required).

Otafest 2017

June 30 – July 2, 2017
Telus Convention Centre (120 9th Ave. SE)
$10 – $60

A three day celebration of Japanese art, culture, and media in the Canadian community, this festival features a 7,000-sq.-ft. marketplace and art exhibition, media guests, gaming, cosplay showcases, musical concerts, performances, educational panels, and, of course, anime screenings.