You may have already noticed our Things to do over the summer list is looking a little thin. During the process of writing it, several of the biggest events we wanted to include were cancelled — Folk Fest, Taste of Edmonton, the Fringe — for the reason that planning a large public gathering is the opposite of what every credible health expert on the planet is recommending. These were all scheduled to take place in July or August, meaning the creeping effects of COVID-19 have already spread across the entire summer, and are threatening to invalidate every item on that list. The provincial government decided to extend the ban on gatherings of 15 people or until a non-specific time after the summer, while the federal government estimates social distancing measures more generally will be imposed until at least July. Things are probably not going to go back to normal well into the fall, and until then it’s entirely possible that every activity involving a public place with groups of people gets cancelled. If that does end up being the case, here are some contagion-proof replacements for your summer vacation.
Edmonton Downtown Farmer’s Market
Like grocery stores, farmer’s markets have generally stayed open so far into the pandemic, some making the similar concessions of limiting the number of people allowed on the grounds. The Edmonton Downtown Farmer’s Market is open indefinitely and recently settled into the historic Great Western Garment Building on 97 Street and 103 Avenue that has a generous amount of space to not get coughed on. It’s a good spot to think of when you inevitably need groceries or other household items. You can get just about anything there, at higher quality and only marginally higher prices — produce, handmade soaps, clothing, tools, and the usual assortment of crafts and decorations — and it’s a good way to support local makers of such goods, which seems particularly important in a time like this. You’ll still want to take all of the precautions you would if going to a regular grocery store, of course.
The Citadel Theatre’s Stuck-in-the-House series
With the venue being effectively shut down now that public gatherings are being limited to 15 people, the Citadel Theatre has organized a series of live-streamed informal performances so the artists can still show off their craft to audiences over Facebook. And, they get paid! The streamed performances have so far largely comprised short skits filmed on a webcam out of the performers’ homes, often featuring their pets in supporting roles, but there is a variety. While the theatre’s main reason for being is putting on plays, it has always featured an array of performance types including music, dance, opera, and stand-up comedy, and this is reflected in the Stuck-in-the-house series.
The schedule is irregular but is kept up to date on the Citadel’s website, and they’ve been putting something on every day so far. You can also check out past performances archived on the Citadel’s YouTube channel.
Take a fishing trip
It’s hard to get more socially isolated than on a boat in the middle of a lake.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few steps to take before you can get there: you need a license to fish anywhere in Alberta, equipment, to leave the city limits, and should probably have at least a basic idea of how to fish or bring someone who does. It’s also important to be able to identify everything you catch since there are very strict laws as to what you can keep and what you have to release.
Luckily, some of this can be solved using the internet. The Alberta Fishing Guide’s website has everything you need to know regarding the law — individual lakes and rivers often have their own rules on top of the general fishing guidelines — and can help with identifying fish. You can also apply for your license online here.
The other good news is that Alberta is full of fishing spots. In fact, you can catch something or other in just about every lake or river you see, though most of them are catch-and-release only. The most popular fishing spot close to Edmonton is at Pigeon Lake, about an hour outside of town.
NPR and Live Nation both have running lists of musicians and bands performing at-home concerts day-by-day, and there are a lot of them. Whether you are going to enjoy such a thing is dependent on your musical tastes because some genres simply don’t translate well to the format. If you’re a metalhead, there’s not much for you here, but if you like the types of music that lend themselves well to intimate settings like folk, then video concerts aren’t going to be that much different from the real thing.
Local musicians have also been getting in on the action. On April 10, Makiisma released her latest album via livestream out of the Sewing Machine Factory, complete with opening at-home performances by fellow folk artists Kimberley MacGregor and Elliott Thomas. Alt-folk musician Von Bieker has been streaming hour-long sessions of music and poetry on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and plans to do so “until they let us out of our houses,” he said on one such stream on April 2. These sessions feature guest musicians from around western Canada and the United States. Meanwhile, the Starlite Room has been streaming a regular slew of concerts (and, as an aside, will host your remote wedding), and have made some of their past shows available for free.
Play Stardew Valley
The newly released Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been touted as the “game for the coronavirus moment,” but everyone who thinks this is wrong. A key component of Nintendo’s premier series of being-in-debt simulators is that the game progresses in real-time — if you need to catch a bug that comes out at night, you have to wait until it’s actually night. This means you’re going to be doing a lot of staring idly at the screen before you trick enough small animals into your real-estate pyramid scheme to collect enough money for that new style of fence you’ve been eyeing. Don’t get me wrong, New Horizons is a fine game, but it’s deliberately designed to be checked on once in a while. When you try to binge it, it’s revealed to be the long string of random prosaic tasks it was all along.
If you really need a video game to help fool yourself into believing you’re keeping a connection with nature, you should play a game from 2016 called Stardew Valley instead. This game is both better suited for these circumstances and the better game overall. In Stardew Valley you end up doing a lot of the same collecting and exploring tasks as New Horizons, and there are hundreds of hours worth of them, but the player drives the progression so there’s no waiting around. It’s also a fraction of the price of New Horizons, at only $16.49, and is available on all platforms.