24 Hours in Saskatoon: Soaking up the Saskatchewan Jazz Fest

Saskatoon Localist correspondent Leah Sookoo shares her perfect day at Saskatoon’s jazz festival

Saskatoon is a place where winter nearly kills us all but then rewards us (if we survive) with a brilliant summer. It’s a lively time, packed with festivals, river sports and outdoor markets. The official kickoff is one of the biggest festivals in the west: Saskatchewan Jazz Fest, running June 23 to July 2.

Don’t let the name fool you: we use the term “jazz” loosely, as the wide array of acts cover everything from soul to funk to folk to slowcore (yes, that’s a thing). These 10 glorious days of outdoor performances, late night lounge sessions and food trucks make for great summer shenanigans. The whole thing takes place behind the Bessborough Hotel (601 Spadina Cres. E.) in the kind of backyard only British aristocracy is privy to.

To better enjoy these days ahead, allow me to give you some insight into what I’ll be doing, eating and wearing to float through the festivities in style.

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Starting off at Thrive

10 a.m. Like most other human beings, I’m starting the day caffeinated. I head to Thrive (137 20 St. W.) to grab one of their lovely cold-pressed juices for later and an almond milk latte to get my brain firing. Right on the corner of 20th West and Ave. B, the cafe’s wide, open windows make for the perfect spot to watch the world bustle by, chat with passersby (there’s always a friendly face around here) and check Instagram to see where everyone’s going to be for all the events later on.

12 p.m. My day usually revolves around food, so I’m heading straight for the food trucks. Waffles? Perogies? Tacos? Just pile it all onto one plate, please. I enjoy wandering around smelling the smells and, after finally looking at all the choices, making a food decision. After getting an assortment of yummies, I find a place in the grass and enjoy the performances on the free stage. Last year it was by the river, this year the stage will be by the Bessborough Hotel.

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Supplies for the day

2 p.m. I have a small Mexican blanket that folds neatly into my woven summer purse, and I’ve brought along a few Lara bars in case I need a (cheap) snack, a Thrive charcoal lemonade and sunscreen. For the daytime events, I’ve chosen a new Aritzia linen romper in the most delectable nutmeg-rose colour, paired with vintage accessories, and I’m channeling ’90s vibes with my hair up in two buns. I feel ready for anything in this outfit.

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Grabbing a drink at Drift

5 p.m. It’s happy hour, which means I’m going to shimmy my way over to Drift Sidewalk Café and Vista Lounge (339 Ave. A S.) for a glass of wine and maybe a cocktail or two. This whimsical upstairs lounge surrounds you with tropical flora, sultry beats and vibrant décor. I’m impartial to their salted negroni but I would never, ever say no to a blueberry margarita or anything mezcal-infused. You could also get a beer and clam if you’re into that sort of thing (which, if you’re from the Prairies, means you definitely are). On the right day, I might even catch one of the free shows here while meeting with a few friends.

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Evening outfit change

8 p.m. After getting juiced up, you might want to think about a costume change. I’ve opted to forgo the romper and changed into some wide leg jeans and a vintage rose-printed shawl. My leather mules will keep my toes safe while giving me freedom to fling them off when the moment is right for some barefoot dancing. Because if you’re not dancing barefoot in the grass, are you even doing summer right?

11 p.m. Show’s over, folks. Where else will the night lead you? I would suggest Sticks and Stones (226 2 Ave. S.) for late-night Ramen and a Korean-inspired cocktail, but if you can’t get a seat, Flint (259 2 Ave. S.) across the street will do just fine for your nightcap.

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