Summer sendoffs: 8 Calgary festivals this September

By Shane Flug

The leaves are changing colour and the mornings are getting chillier, which means summer – along with festival season – is coming to a close. However, the remaining weeks also bring last chances to soak in warm days of friends, music, food and culture while you're settling back into work and school. Here are eight fests happening this month. [Photo credit: Beakerhead]

Summer sendoffs: 8 Calgary festivals this September

Highland Games

Each summer, Scots across the globe partake in a centuries-old gathering of sports, dance and music. With close to 20 per cent of the Calgary population reporting being of Scottish heritage, it’s no surprise the Highland Games here have been running for more than a century. Kilt or no kilt, soak in the sights and sounds of Scottish dance, bagpipes and drums and cheer on the athletes in traditional heavy events such as the caber toss.

BBQ on the Bow

This Labour Day long weekend, outdoor chefs across town will be vying for more than $10,000 in prize money during this annual Southern-style cooking competition. Learn a few grilling secrets from both competing pit masters and local food vendors for your next backyard get-together during their food demonstrations. Also taste BBQ from local food trucks while enjoying local live music acts such as the Static Shift and the Torchettes.

Circle the Wagons

Age is no excuse to not enjoy a day at the circus. On top of circus acts, wiener dog races, a Lego Land and more for kids to enjoy (14 and under get in free), this one-day carnival also showcases the best in local food, craft beer and music. With 22 live acts – including local indie-folk quintet Reuben and the Dark and Juno-nominated electro-pop duo Humans – spanning three stages, more than 13 food trucks and three Village Brewery onsite bars, this carnival is also sure to be fun for grown-ups, too!


The Wright Brothers didn’t get their flying machine right the first time. The inventing process has its ups and downs and the minds at Calgary’s art and science smash-up festival are reflecting that with this year’s Snakes & Ladders theme. Take the family to the Calgary Tower and envision the future at the Municipal Space Station or take in the flaming spectacle that is the Serpent Mother at Fort Calgary.

  • When: Sept. 13 to 17
  • Where: Multi-venue
  • Admission: Varies by event. Many are free.
  • Festival website

Calgary International Film Festival

Lights, camera, action! CIFF returns for 12 days of the best in film both worldwide and from here at home. Highlights include Entanglement, a dark comedy from local screenwriter Jason Filiatrault that follows a young man who uncovers a dark family secret as well as headlining drama Borg/McEnroe, a retelling of the legendary 1980 Wimbledon tennis match that kept the world shouting at its screen.

Calgary Oktoberfest

Auf Wiedersehen für jetzt, Cowboyhüte. Hallo, lederhosen! Alberta Beer Festivals brings bratwurst, pretzels and wheat beer to Stampede Park, celebrating the best of Bavarian culture. Have a taste of Germany with brewers such as Munich’s Hofbräuhaus and also sip what brewers here at home have to offer. Don’t miss the music, dances, games and more.

VegFest Calgary

For those who live by the mantra “animals are friends, not food,” this is the festival you’ve been waiting for. In addition to all the vegan samples, fresh juices and kombucha from local vendors, this inaugural vegan food and lifestyle fest also features live cooking demos, local live music acts like Hello Moth and speakers such as writer and activist Carol J. Adams.

Kiwanis Apple Festival

In the mid-20th century, local Kiwanis members would fundraise by selling apples by the basket during Stampede and other events. For the last few years, they’ve been marking the fall by throwing this (golden) delicious fruit its very own themed festival with all fundraising proceeds going towards kids’ programs at Kamp Kiwanis. Take the kids for face painting, baking and pressing. While you're there, let them be Robin Hood for a day at the apple archery station.

Fall is in the air and we’ll soon be settling in back at work and school. Whether it’s at the carnival or the movie theatre, Calgary festival season has plenty of ways to help give your summer a fun sendoff.

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