Sun plus salsa? OK.
Sun plus wizards? Um, weird, but sure, I guess.
Sun plus beer? Bingo.
So goes the evolution of the annual summer Kensington street fair, which now begets the Sun N’ Cerveza festival taking place Sunday, July 28 in the best little neighbourhood across the Bow.
Meant as an “homage” to the Sun and Salsa street festival that was a destination event for a decade, the new block party is a one-day oasis for beer lovers to help fill the hole left in the July calendar when organizers of the longtime fest called it quits in 2014 due, in part, to construction in the area.
“It wasn’t due to the popularity, because obviously it was a popular festival,” says Sun N’ Cerveza co-creator Robey Stothart of the indefinite hiatus of S&S. “I think it was just the logistics of it. I think a lot of the businesses didn’t like the salsa competition, to be honest. They thought that it was a headache and they didn’t enjoy the extra man-hours and whatnot.”
That was followed for a couple of years by the Kensington’s Fantasy Faire, which originally began as a Harry Potter-themed celebration before lawyers for Universal Studios (owners of the franchise) shut that down, with subsequent fairs being a little more lacklustre, closing down the neighbourhood to traffic but not really delivering many rewards for the businesses.
“It just turned into a street fair/costume party and it was great for the families, but they never really went into the businesses or the bars,” Stothart says. “It was nothing really orientated for the adults, because it was a fantasy fair for Calgary.”
Noting there was a void — no S&S, no street fair, no nothing in the hood for the final weekend in July — Stothart, who has been DJing and booking DJs for the Original Joe’s Kensington locale the past few summers, pitched to general manager, Nick Ford, a replacement event but one located only at OJ’s.
That got the ball rolling and things percolating between the two.
“At the end of the brainstorming it was: everybody likes beer,” he says.
So Ford set out contacting breweries about doing sampling at OJ’s, with several coming onboard immediately. So positive was the reception, they began reaching out to nearby bars and restaurants, and even more breweries, with the event snowballing into something much bigger.
“It just spread from there and then all of a sudden we had seven venues and 13 breweries and it was a contained pub crawl on Kensington Road,” he says, noting that the streets in the neighbourhood won’t be shut down but open to traffic so as not to affect other businesses.
“That’s what’s a little different, too, from Sun and Salsa is that Sun N’ Cerveza is only on Kensington Road and Kensington Crescent.”
Restaurants included in the inaugural walkable noon to 5 p.m. fest include OJ’s, Brasserie, Container Bar, Hayden Block, Kensington Pub, Winebar and Side Street Pub & Grill — which will also host the free afterparty — with every venue having a patio which should, knock wood, supply the sun during the day.
As for the cerveza side of things, it’s an impressive collection of beers on tap to sample, including Legend 7 Brewing, The Dandy Brewing Company, Wild Rose Brewery, Cabin Brewing Company, Common Crown Brewing Co., Eighty-Eight Brewing Co., FAHR, Goat Locker Brewing Company, Sleeman, Last Best Brewing & Distilling, Belgium Moon, The Grizzly Paw Brewing Co., Zero Issue Brewing and Inner City Brewery — the latter of which has collaborated with OJ’s for a beer that will be available only for the day at that location.
There will also be live music, DJs and prizes at the participating bars and restaurants, which are easy to navigate thanks to a map that you can pick up from OJ’s.
As for the all-ages aspect of SNC, Stothart notes that half of restaurants are family-friendly during the day, so you may want to call ahead or check the websites of each.
Organizers are hoping that the response this year will be such that sun- and beer-lovers will make it an annual part of their summer schedule, making it a bigger and proper replacement for where it all began.
“Obviously the idea is to get this festival to grow and maybe one day it would call for the street to shut down again, and Kensington would have another awesome vibe street festival,” Stothart says.
“I mean, who doesn’t like drinking beer in the sun, right?”
Sun N’ Cerveza takes place Sunday, July 28 from noon to 5 p.m. at various locations in Calgary. For more information go to the event’s Facebook page here.