Street performers, bouncy castles, games and more filled Edmonton streets and community centres Saturday, as neighbourhoods across the city celebrated Community League Day.
The isolation and other challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of community leagues, which help people develop leadership skills, try new things and meet their neighbours, said Laura Cunningham-Shpeley, executive director of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, an umbrella group supporting the city's community leagues.
She described Saturday as a chance to have a "citywide party to celebrate community, to celebrate volunteerism, to celebrate these amazing local places across our city, in local neighbourhoods."
There are more than 160 community leagues in Edmonton, many of which marked the day in a big way.
The Ritchie Community League celebrated its 100th anniversary Saturday, giving the league a chance to get together and contemplate where to head in the future, said league president Avnish Nanda.
While food, music and other entertainment were all on offer, the sense of belonging provided by community leagues is what's truly important, Nanda said.
LISTEN | The Ritchie community league is celebrating its 100th anniversary:
"It really breaks down barriers and provides a sense that we're all in this together," he said.
"The betterment of my family is [met by] addressing the issues that my neighbours may have."
Meanwhile, in the city's Ekota neighbourhood, the Knottwood Community League held the grand opening of its new community centre — an occasion eagerly anticipated by long-time residents.
"I've been waiting more than 40 years for this to happen," said resident Vangie Treichel.
Accessibility was an issue for some people at the old community hall, limiting the amount of community-building that could happen there, said Thomas Shaw, Knottwood Community League president.
The community hall was actually a bungalow brought into the nearby Satoo neighbourhood back in 1978, he explained. It was only supposed to be around for a couple years before a new centre was built, but decades passed without any development.
Shaw hopes the new centre will strengthen ties between neighbours — although, according to Treichel, it already had.
"Even before the hall was built, people started working together more in the community," Treichel said.
"They had a common goal and they wanted to get this community hall up."
The new $2.4-million facility features multiple spaces to accommodate events such as yoga classes and business meetings, and features a commercial kitchen.
It was financed through fundraising as well as municipal, provincial and federal government grants, Shaw said.
The new centre will be a welcoming space for residents from all backgrounds, including seniors and people with disabilities, said Brenda Kaufman, another long-time resident.