Some Edmonton event organizers change plans to score extra attendees on game day

Ana Ouedraogo says Africanival will accommodate Oilers fans by setting up a screen on the festival's main stage. (Nathan Gross/CBC - image credit)
Ana Ouedraogo says Africanival will accommodate Oilers fans by setting up a screen on the festival's main stage. (Nathan Gross/CBC - image credit)

Thousands of hockey fans will flood downtown on Saturday night to watch the Edmonton Oilers' first game against the Florida Panthers.

A few blocks east of Rogers Place, the organizers of Africanival are hoping some of those fans find their way to Sir Winston Churchill Square.

The festival, which celebrates the cultures of peoples of African descent, has a full day of performances on Saturday, with musicians and dancers scheduled for the main stage throughout the evening.

To accommodate Oilers fans, the festival is setting up a screen that will display the game on stage.

"We're going to have special music when they win," said event manager Ana Ouedraogo.

Northeast of downtown, the Heart of the City Festival Society has similar plans.

Organizers are trying to rent a projector and screen to set up in Giovanni Caboto Park, near food trucks, so people can have dinner and watch the game while musicians perform.

Board treasurer Norbert Topolski said when the game isn't on, the screen could show videos and photos from the festival's past two decades.

"We weren't really planning to put the projector up until the Oilers game motivated us to do it," he said.

He's not the only one looking for a last-minute rental.

Sheldon Fingler of Infinite Event Services said the company has been swamped with calls and rented out an extra dozen projectors and 15 televisions.

Sheldon Fingler, who owns Infinite Event Services, said his company set up this screen at an event last month so attendees could watch the Edmonton Oilers play the Dallas Stars.
Sheldon Fingler, who owns Infinite Event Services, said his company set up this screen at an event last month so attendees could watch the Edmonton Oilers play the Dallas Stars.

Sheldon Fingler, who owns Infinite Event Services, said his company set up this screen at an event last month so attendees could watch the Edmonton Oilers play the Dallas Stars. (Submitted by Sheldon Fingler)

He said the surge is causing chaos because it comes at the busiest time of year for weddings, graduations and corporate events.

"I've got a camper at work and I slept in it last night so we could keep things rolling," Fingler said.

Oilers vs. Puccini

For the second time during this playoff run, Emilio De Mercato will be playing the piano while the Oilers are on the ice.

Along with soprano Cara Lianne McLeod and tenor Andrea Pinna, he'll be honouring the 100th anniversary of composer Giacomo Puccini's death during an encore concert at Ayco Cafe on Jasper Avenue.

"We were wondering if we should wear some Oilers jerseys," he said.

De Mercato said some attendees will likely be keeping tabs on the game during the concert and he expects the audience will know when Oilers score but others may be looking for a different kind of experience that night.

Despite the time conflict with hockey, he said the concert has nearly sold out.

Changing game times

While some events are proceeding as planned on Saturday night, others will be getting underway earlier.

Both the Edmonton Elks and the Edmonton Riverhawks changed the times of their Saturday games so they will occur before the puck drops.

Rick LeLacheur is interim president and CEO of the Edmonton Elks.
Rick LeLacheur is interim president and CEO of the Edmonton Elks.

Rick LeLacheur is interim president and CEO of the Edmonton Elks. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

"It'll be a great sports day for Edmonton," said Rick LeLacheur, the Elks' interim president and CEO.

The Elks play at 2 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium and the Riverhawks will start at 1:05 p.m. instead of 7:05 p.m.