Visitors are more likely to come to Calgary for the annual Global Petroleum Show than any given artistic performance. That’s part of the reason why the success of Sled Island, of which Shawn Petsche is festival manager, is so unique. When the music and arts festival debuted in 2007, it began as an obscure mix of performances that served as a kind of rebellion against Calgary’s stiff corporate culture. And, while the festival still maintains its highly diverse lineup 10 years later, it has grown to the point of becoming a part of Calgary (or, alternatively, Calgary simply grew to the point of embracing it).
Today, Sled Island is one of the most popular showcases of diverse talent in Alberta. Every year it attracts more than 30,000 attendees from around the world, who gather to see musicians, comedians, filmmakers and artists display their work in more than 35 venues. The growing success of the festival has been quiet yet undeniable over the past decade, enough for The A.V. Club to call Sled Island “one of Canada’s best-kept festival secrets.”
Petsche, who has been a staff member since the festival’s founding, says Sled Island intends to continue to add unique performers to the lineup as a way of exposing attendees to new art forms and performers. This year, the event brought in renowned entertainers Guided by Voices, Peaches and Angel Olsen.