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Northlands Park - Memories Worth Keeping
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Origins and Development

Edmonton's signature summer fairEdmonton’s summer fair began in 1879, when the Edmonton Agricultural Society put on its debut event inside Fort Edmonton. The fair was established as a local tradition and continues to be put on annually by the organization. Though historically it has been an agricultural event, 1963 marked the kick-off of a playful new theme that would captivate broad audiences.

Free entertainmentWith hopes of reenergizing the existent fair, Northlands Park’s 1961 Events Committee began discussing possible fair themes that could rouse community spirit. The challenge was to find and idea that would have local relevance, entertainment appeal, and multiple possibilities for fair events.

Following conversation, including board tensions regarding the move away from agriculture as the primary focus, the Klondike theme was suggested and approved by the committee, and later the board.

The EdmontonianOnce a broad theme had been secured, there were details to take care of if the new theme was to prove a success. Particular aspects of the idea were solidified and the 1963 summer fair began to be marketed under its new rubric. Fairgoers were invited to embrace the Klondike theme and participate through historic dress, gold panning, or any of the other spirited forms in which the local Gold Rush’s finer points could be relived. The annual fair parade, existent since 1903, was also adapted and set the tone for Edmonton’s nostalgia-filled transformation.

Klondike regaliaThe Edmonton Klondike Days Exposition theme was chosen as a permanent fair idea to be accompanied by particular events following the very successful 1963 exposition. With the prospect of an evolving event, a separate organization was created to develop more elaborate and historical activities, promote the theme and evaluate the suitability of yearly fair attractions. This entity ultimately became the Edmonton Klondike Days Association (EKDA) in 1965, a charitable shareholder-based public organization essential in planning the fair.

Numerous staff and volunteersBetween 1964 to 1973, Klondike Days went through an expansion characteristic of Northlands Park’s modern period. Numerous fair activities required booking such things as the midway, and the coordination of hundreds of volunteers. With grants, fundraising, and business partnerships, Klondike Days began to garner a lot of attention and support. Citywide participation rose and the event became a highly anticipated occasion.

Importantly, the execution of Klondike Days also helped to quell antagonism that the downtown business community had been feeling due to Northlands’ success in drawing guests to its exhibition grounds. With EKDA liaising, merchants have been producing colourful shop front displays and diverse contributions. One of the city banks has even permitted horses to be photographed inside its building for fair publicity.

Midway at Klondike DaysThe Klondike Days Exposition continues to grow and evolve, the midway alone attracts many people to the site. In order to monitor the growth and provide well-planned services turnstiles were introduced to count how many people were visiting the grounds. In 1986, another facet was added to the 10-day event. Annual Feature Country and International Trade and Cultural Shows began taking place, bringing a highly organized commercial opportunity to the fair.

Klondike Days programPart of what has made the Edmonton Klondike Day’s Exposition so successful is its accessibility. Since the theme was in its planning stages, great care has been put into creating an occasion that could offer things to everyone, regardless of financial resources particularly. Free entertainment throughout the city and the exhibition grounds, as well as cheap entrance into the fair grounds continue to provide many people in Northern and Central Alberta an abundance of summer merriment.

Featured Video: Development of Klondike Days activities and attractions Past Northlands Park president Bill Henning illustrates the development of Klondike Days activities and attractions. Watch Now

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