The Pulse: Nov. 18, 2021

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  • 1°C: Mainly cloudy. Clearing early in the afternoon. Wind becoming west 20 km/h gusting to 40 near noon. High plus 1. Wind chill minus 12 in the morning. (forecast)
  • 1,221: As of Nov. 17 there were 1,221 active cases of COVID-19 in the Edmonton zone. (details)
  • 7pm: The Oilers (11-4-0) host a rematch with the Jets (9-3-3) at Rogers Place. (details)

A lit-up version of the Glow logo

Winter celebrations brighten up the city with holiday festivities

By Emily Rendell-Watson in the Arts Roundup

Edmonton is steadily losing light with each passing day, and the city was thrust into winter earlier this week with a storm that blew across the Prairies.

While many Edmontonians were caught off guard by the heavy snowfall, the sudden shift in seasons also brings with it a slew of holiday events that will light up the city and feature local artists, exhibits, and other entertainment.

The season begins with the free All is Bright Festival on 124th Street this weekend. There will be lights, live music, street performers, face painting, and fun winter activities like ice sculptures and fire pits on Nov. 20 to mark the coming of the winter season. New this year is the Indigenous Pavilion at 124th Street and 103rd Avenue.

The Downtown Holiday Light Up will also kick off on Nov. 20 and run through Jan. 2. The events at Sir Winston Churchill Square will offer live entertainment, new art installations, and food trucks. The tree is already up in the square, and over the next few days, 14,500 lights will be added by EPCOR crews in preparation for Nov. 20.

"Right now perhaps more than ever, people need reasons to celebrate and come together in a way that's safe and accessible for everyone. We are so excited to create something extra special in Downtown Edmonton this year with our most ambitious Holiday Light Up festival yet," said Puneeta McBryan, executive director of the Downtown Business Association. "This event will bring much needed foot traffic back to our downtown businesses and vibrancy and joy back to our streets and public spaces."

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By Mack Male

  • The province has announced a $21.5 million funding package to support emergency homeless shelters, isolation facilities, and emergency women's shelters this winter. About $7.2 million will be allocated to shelters in Edmonton. Jason Luan, minister of community and social services, said the money will increase shelter capacity in Edmonton to 1,280 beds.
  • An additional $1.5 million has been committed to operate Commonwealth Stadium as an emergency shelter this winter. It will have around 200 beds once operational next month. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the funding will help this winter, but long-term solutions are needed. "Shelters do play a role in tackling homelessness, but long-term solutions are in supportive housing, wraparound services for mental health and addictions recovery as well as supervised consumption sites that allow people to get appropriate services," he said.
  • Edmonton police chief Dale McFee will co-chair a new provincial task force that will develop an action plan on homelessness for the province. Last month, McFee told reporters that solutions and interventions beyond housing were needed. "It's not about just giving people a house, although we know that is an important step," he said. More than 12,000 people have been housed in Edmonton using the housing-first model.
  • Explore Edmonton estimates the World Cup qualifying games brought $30-40 million in economic benefits to the region with 30% of attendees from outside the city, Global News reports. The success of the games has raised hopes for Edmonton's 2026 World Cup bid. FIFA has spoken positively about the city's chances but indicated the artificial turf at Commonwealth Stadium would have to go.
An old classified ad, including one for the Edmonton Hotel, "the pioneer house of entertainment west of Portage la Prairie"

A moment in history: Nov. 18, 1882

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1882, travellers were invited to spend a night at the newly expanded Edmonton Hotel.

The ad promised "superior accommodations" as well as a "first-class" billiards room in a building that sat on a hill overlooking the North Saskatchewan River.

The Edmonton Hotel held the distinction of being the first hotel built west of Manitoba, as well as one of the first buildings erected by settlers outside the walls of Fort Edmonton. The flats around the fort had been a gathering place for Indigenous people for thousands of years; the 1870s saw settlers begin to claim lands along the river in the area. Don Ross was among the first when he purchased lot No. 4 in 1875.

Ross had come to Edmonton from Scotland to pan for gold. But after building his house at the base of what is now McDougall Hill, he spotted a different opportunity. The railway was more than a decade away, and the North Saskatchewan was still the main transportation link for the area. With easy access to the water, Ross's home became a popular destination for travellers who had the same dreams of gold that drew him. He turned it into a rooming house before transforming it into the Edmonton Hotel.

It proved to be a lucrative business. Eventually, the Edmonton Hotel would boast five private rooms. Ross was known to rent out tables — or even his billiard tables — for travellers to sleep on when the actual beds were full. The money from the hotel allowed Ross to invest in other industries, including a coal mine, shipping, and brickmaking. Both he and his wife, Olive, became influential figures in the growing city.

A devastating flood in 1915 wiped out many of the buildings along the North Saskatchewan. Ross's hotel was one of the few to survive, owing to his decision to build it further back on the plot. However, Ross died the same year. He was buried in the neighbourhood that now bears his name.

By that time, the economic boom of the previous decades had turned into a recession, worsened by the First World War. After Ross died, visitors dwindled and the hotel was transformed back into a rooming house. A decade later, a fire engulfed the structure, dealing a fatal blow to Edmonton's first hotel.

Of course, now there are hundreds of hotels and accommodations spread out across the city, many of which are still struggling to recover as the pandemic nears the end of its second year. A new government subsidy, targeting the tourism and entertainment industries, was announced last month. And while the city no longer sees many gold chasers coming in via riverboat, several new routes at the Edmonton International Airport hold some promise of bringing new visitors to the area.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.

A performer at the 2019 Edmonton Music and Speech Arts Festival.

Weekend agenda: Nov. 18-21, 2021

By Andy Trussler

Photo: A performer at the 2019 Edmonton Music and Speech Arts Festival. (Kent Sutherland/EMSAF)