The Pulse: June 13, 2024

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 21°C: Mainly cloudy. Clearing near noon. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light in the afternoon. High 21. UV index 6 or high. (forecast)
  • Blue/Orange: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue and orange for the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup playoffs. (details)
  • 6pm: The Edmonton Oilers play the Florida Panthers at Rogers Place for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals. (details)

People dressed in vintage clothes dance in a nightclub with a checkered floor, spotlights, and disco balls.

New doc recreates Edmonton's norm-busting Flashback nightclub

By Colin Gallant

A new documentary about Flashback, the long-closed Edmonton queer nightclub that's often referred to as the "Studio 54 of the Prairies," uses novel techniques to keep the story and club alive.

"I like to say 'I'm still in Grade 2,'" Peter Hays, Flashback director and the owner of Tangerine Productions Ltd., told Taproot. "Show and tell is what I do."

He and his brother, Matthew Hays, led the creative team for the film. The duo knew they didn't want to make a standard documentary with archival footage, still photographs, and talking-head interviews. Plus, when they successfully pitched the doc to TELUS they had yet to even secure archival footage from inside the club, which closed in 1991.

Eventually, the brothers did land archival footage (from consulting producer Patrick Monaghan, playwright Darrin Hagen, and Flashback creator John Reid), but their creative juices were already flowing. To show Flashback rather than tell, the filmmakers commissioned 3D graphics based on blueprints of the club. They also worked with Rob Browatzke, owner of Evolution Wounderlounge, to redecorate his club's interior into a Flashback facsimile for three days to allow for reenactments with 50 club-goers.

"We did auditions, and our people who judged the kids, the leads of our hair, makeup, and wardrobe departments, went to Flashback when they were young," Hays said. "They knew what they were looking for, and they knew how to create that place."

Hays added the doc is "about an energy and a time" rather than telling people about it. "Having a bunch of old guys like me talk about it for 90 minutes, that's not gonna work. The central piece of energy that we needed was to see club kids in the club."

But what's a dance sequence without music? After all, Flashback — which was located at 104 Street and 103 Avenue downtown — earned the "Studio 54 of the Prairies" nickname because of the music, too. The brothers, both from Edmonton but now living in Calgary (Peter) and Montreal (Matthew), again bridged the past and present by recording two disco tracks at Studio Bell (home of the National Music Centre) in Calgary with singer D'orjay. One is a cover of "So Many Men/So Little Time" by Miquel Brown; the second is an original called "Don't Stop Dancing," by Peter Hays, Ian Dillon, and Carson Dillon.

Music and nightlife might seem trivial to some. But Peter Hays said, especially for Flashback's run from 1974 to 1991, these components were critical.

"Gay culture went mainstream with the advent of disco music," he said. "That changed nightclub life; it changed queer culture. But at the same time, if you were gay, you couldn't show that anywhere in Edmonton without fear of reprisal, except for the occasional location like Flashback."

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Headlines: June 13, 2024

By Kevin Holowack

  • Edmonton Transit Service has had one of the strongest post-pandemic ridership recoveries in Canada, with ridership increasing 130% since spring 2021, the City says. Ridership reached 5.3 million in May 2024, compared to 2.3 million in April 2021, which administration attributed to the launch of the Valley Line Southeast LRT, investments in the bus network, and population growth. ETS plans to increase fares in February 2025 due to low revenues, and data presented to a council committee in May showed LRT ridership is only 70-75% of pre-pandemic levels.
  • The City of Edmonton has awarded a design-build contract for part of the Capital Line South LRT extension project to Design-Build Ltd., which is a member of Ledcor Group of Companies, with AECOM as a design partner. The partners will create a detailed design for Phase 1 of the project from Century Park to north of Ellerslie Road, which includes a 4.5-kilometer high-floor LRT line extension along 111 Street, an underpass, two bridges, and two stations. Major construction along 111 Street is expected to begin in 2025. Council voted June 12 to borrow $585 million for the extension, up from the $343 million originally budgeted.
  • The We Belong in Jasper Place initiative is asking the community to help shape its future direction. The current phase of the initiative, which involved leveraging municipal funding for 11 community-building projects in the Jasper Place neighbourhood, will conclude by May 2025. Administrators for the initiative, which is supported by the Stony Plain Road Business Association, propose two scenarios: organizing another round of grant funding or creating a community-led organization to guide revitalization in Jasper Place. Anyone who spends time in Jasper Place can provide their feedback through a survey.
  • EndPovertyEdmonton announced on June 6 that it will wind down its current operations by the end of 2024. The announcement comes after city council voted in December 2023 to stop funding the organization after 2026. It says it will transition its projects over the next six months, and plans to put its remaining funds toward an "open community call to get involved in reimagining a collective response" to ending poverty.
  • Edmonton's and Calgary's revitalization efforts were discussed at a June 12 commercial real estate industry breakfast run by NAIOP. Calgary Downtown Association executive director Mark Garner spoke about office-to-residential conversions in his city that have drawn significant attention across North America, saying the concept "is working, but it's still not where it needs to be." Cory Wosnack, principal and managing director at Avison Young, which recently acquired the Phipps-McKinnon building for the purpose of a partial residential conversion, said Edmonton's market can learn from the "partnership approach" developed by the private sector and the City of Calgary.
  • Foote Field at the University of Alberta south campus will host the Edmonton Athletics Invitational on June 13, a one-day stop of the World Athletics Silver Continental Tour. The multi-use sports facility will welcome over 200 track and field athletes from 15 countries. It is expected to draw more than 2,000 spectators. Among the competitors will be Edmonton's Marco Arop, the reigning 800-metre world champion, and Sherwood Park's Amanda Rummery, one of the best women para-runners in Canada.
  • The Canadian Country Music Association will be hosting the 2024 CCMA Awards at Rogers Place on Sept. 14. It will be the event's first time in Edmonton in 10 years, and its eighth time in the city. Organizers unveiled the first round of performers, including Dasha, Jade Eagleson, Brett Kissel, and The Reklaws.
  • Some local farmers told CTV News a cool, wet spring has created a good start to the growing season around Edmonton. Meanwhile, low temperatures in B.C. have hurt the stone fruit market, and Edmonton-area growers are seeing renewed interest in buying from local farms and self-sufficiency.
  • CBC's This is Edmonton podcast spoke to dancer Danni Okemaw about her powwow dancing journey as Indigenous dancers across the Prairies prepare for the powwow trail this summer.
  • Alberta Capital Airshed data manager Kevin McCullum appeared on CBC News to talk about air quality in Edmonton this year.
  • Sports writer Robert Tychkowski is optimistic the Edmonton Oilers will come back from their 2-0 deficit against the Florida Panthers. The team is accustomed to adversity, Tychkowski wrote, rising from 31st place in the NHL to the playoffs standings and surviving back-to-back elimination games against the Vancouver Canucks. "There's definitely a certain confidence that comes from knowing we've been in difficult situations and succeeded," said team captain Connor McDavid.
  • Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse sustained an undisclosed injury during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Florida Panthers, and he didn't practice on June 12. The injury stems from a hit by Panthers forward Evan Rodrigues at 8:16 in the first period. Head coach Kris Knoblauch said he expects Nurse to play in Game 3 on June 13.
  • Residents of Newmarket, Ontario, the hometown of Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, reflected proudly on the hockey star's success. "I hope everybody in Canada is cheering for the Canadian team, but certainly here in Newmarket, there's no question," said Mayor John Taylor.
  • Starting June 20, the Alberta government is significantly increasing fines for failing to take measures that prevent the spread of zebra and quagga mussels into the province. Fines for failing to stop a trailered boat at an open inspection station will increase from $324 to $4,200, and the fine for not removing a bilge plug when transporting a watercraft on a roadway will increase from $180 to $600.
A footbridge across the North Saskatchewan River on an overcast day

Calls for public engagement: Park renewals and restorations

By Kevin Holowack

Here are opportunities to help shape municipal planning about playground renewal, park restoration, and several other matters.

  • Jan Reimer Park Restoration — The City of Edmonton is restoring Jan Reimer Park, a 193-acre park in the river valley in west Edmonton formerly called Oleskiw River Valley Park. Engagement is happening in person on June 18 at the Westridge Wolf Willow Country Club Community League, while an online survey will be available until June 23.
  • Tipton Park Playground Renewal — The City of Edmonton is renewing the playground in Tipton Park, located at 10849 81 Avenue NW in the Queen Alexandra neighbourhood. In-person engagement events at the park are taking place June 15 and June 20. Residents can also review the project vision and complete an online survey until June 23.
  • Allin Park Playground Renewal — The City of Edmonton is renewing the playground in Allin Park at 15919 96 Avenue NW in Glenwood. In-person engagement events are set for June 14 and June 17. Residents can review the project vision and complete an online survey until June 23.
  • Auto Insurance Engagement — The Alberta government is engaging the public about how to make auto insurance more affordable and sustainable, which may inform legislation to reform auto insurance by the fall. Albertans can share their views on auto insurance through an online survey until June 26.

More input opportunities

Photo: The City of Edmonton is working to restore Jan Reimer Park, with the 2023-2026 capital budget allocating funds for the work. The park was renamed after Reimer, the city's first female mayor, in 2021. (City of Edmonton)

A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: June 13, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening today in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.