This summer Fort St. John and area residents celebrated the grand opening of the new Festival Plaza in the northwest corner of Centennial Park. The completion of the new construction means that there is a permanent, all-season venue for hosting markets, festivals, celebrations, concerts and other events.
The concept of a festival plaza space was first introduced in 2015 through extensive community engagement on the Downtown Action Plan as a key element to activate the public realm of Fort St. John’s downtown. After thorough consultation with the public and local stakeholders, a unique and thoughtful design was decided upon.
“We invested a lot of time consulting with local stakeholders, event hosting groups and the public to learn what our community needed and what would fulfill our needs,” said Mayor Lori Ackerman. “As a result, First Nation communities from the region inspired many design elements, telling stories of our area’s heritage, and the plaza design has strong influences from local ecology, landforms, culture and events.”
One of the plaza’s unique characteristics include eight leaning poles around the main performance oval, mimicking the placement of natural wood poles as the skeleton structure of a teepee. Half of the poles include upward-facing lights that intersect nearly 80 metres off the ground providing a lit impression of teepee poles converging high in the sky that can be seen from afar.
The 7,000 square-foot structure with a perimeter door system, electrical outlets and artistic lighting is crucial to hosting events in all weather. Large, roll-up doors can be opened to enhance the flow between inside and outside. With the doors closed, the building can accommodate 300 people during a variety of activities, including markets, performances, social events and exercise classes.
Outside, there are four large gas-fueled fire cauldrons enclosed in a steel structure decorated with art reflecting the region. These fires provide warmth during cool times and add to the lively atmosphere of the plaza.
Northern Development supported this $3 million project with a $50,000 grant through the former Community Halls and Recreation Facilities program. Now, the project would be eligible for a grant through the Community Places funding program.