5 fall festivals to take in around Metro Vancouver

From early fall events to wintertime wonders, these entertainment happenings are worth adding to your calendar.

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Unlike the easy, breezy events of summer, fall arts and cultural festivals tend to focus in on more cerebral and less celebratory experiences.

Dance, theatre, visual arts and literary showcases ask audiences to open up their senses to go beyond the immediate release of grooving to tunes under the summertime sky.

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Oftentimes, these shows are the ones you want to spend hours in post-performance discussion of what you just experienced. Even musical offerings tend toward classical, jazz, folk and less arena rock events.

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Perhaps the defining characteristic of fall events is that they’re more know-y, less show-y.

That said, we also want to see those last gasps of the previous season fully honoured with more lighthearted doings such as a day for dogs in the park.

Here, then, are five upcoming festivals that take that balance into account as the days darken and the rain begins:


1. Barnside Harvest Festival Paw Pals Electric Picnic

When: Sept. 17, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Where: Paterson Park, Ladner

Tickets and info: Barnsideharvestfest.com

One very positive trend in festivals this year has been local craft breweries opening up their space for family oriented fun. One of these is Barnside Brewing Co., which has set up a three-day-long music, food and fun event that boasts such talented acts as the Sheepdogs, 54-40 and Chad Brownlee, among others.

But what is really marvellous about this festival is the final day with the Paw Pals Electric Picnic, described as “an event celebrating our furry companions with engaging activities for all ages.” This includes canine companions enjoying a pet parade route, pool party, “pup-stacle course” and — best of all — some free treats. Here’s to more dog-inclusive arts events in future.

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flamenco fest
Compania Rocio Molina will perform at the Vancouver flamenco festival. Photo by ©Simone Fratini_CaidadelCielo /jpg

2: Vancouver International Flamenco Festival

When: Sept. 18-30, various times

Where: Various venues

Tickets and info: vancouverflamencofestival.org

For the past 33 years, Vancouver’s acclaimed Flamenco Rosario company has mounted its annual festival showcasing the finest in Canadian and international artists.

Far from being solely a dance and musical tradition from Spain, flamenco has developed many different streams across the globe. Each year these are presented in settings ranging from the FOX Cabaret to the Waterfront Theatre and more.

The Dance House/Flamenco Festival/SFU co-presentation of Spain’s Compañia Rocío Molina at the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at the Goldcorp Centre for the arts will be a highlight.

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Heart of the City
DTES Heart of the City Festival We Live Here street art, by Boy, photographed by Jeff Wilson. Photo by Jeff Wilson /jpg

3: Heart of the City Festival

When: Oct. 25-Nov. 5, various times

Where: Downtown Eastside venues and online

Tickets and info: heartofthecityfestival.com

The 20th annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival presents over 100 events in-and-around the area, as well as online.

Presented by Vancouver Moving Theatre in association with the Carnegie Community Centre and the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians, this annual event gives the vibrant positivity found in this often maligned urban neighbourhood a chance to shine.

With a dozen days and nights of events ranging from music to poetry, readings to history walks and much more, it’s a chance to dive into a dynamic area and its creative community.

Meghann Michalsky and Katherine Semchuk
A Meghann Michalsky and Katherine Semchuk duet in Maybe We Land at the Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre on Nov. 15 and 16 as part of this year’s Chutzpah! Festival. Photo by Jeremy Mimnagh

4: Chutzpah! Festival

When: Nov. 2-23, various times

Where: Various venues

Tickets and info: chutzpahfestival.com or 604-257-5145

The Lisa Nemetz Festival of International Jewish Performing Arts, a.k.a. Chutzpah! Festival, is always a highlight of the fall arts calendar.

From Dwell, a new work in progress from the All Bodies Dance Project, which pairs professional dancers with members of the JCC Inclusion Program serving adults with mental-health challenges and developmental disabilities, to the return of Meghann Michalsky and Katherine Semchuk presenting Maybe We Land, a duet inspired by the writings of Esther Perel, the dance offerings are exciting.

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But there is also music, comedy, multimedia and interdisciplinary work. Another bonus is the great family programming throughout the run.  

PNE Winter
The PNE Winter Fair included a tunnel of lights to walk through in 2022. Photo by LBMG /jpg

5: PNE Winter Fair

When: Dec. 8-9, 14-23, 4-10 p.m.

Where: PNE fairgrounds

Tickets and info: pne.ca

Honestly, this event had me with the Ice Bumper Cars at the Tim Hortons Ice Rink.

But then there is the Discover Santa journey complete with puzzles and code deciphering, the PNE Holiday Express ride, B.C. Hydro’s Winter Lights and much more.

Now that this event is established on the holiday calendar, it seems odd that it wasn’t always there. Who doesn’t love a traipse through a Winter Wonderland with the option to have some of Those Little Donuts and a hot chocolate to boot?

Plus, last year there was a great seasonal concert lineup announced that coincided with the fair. Here’s hoping that happens again.

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