If you’ve been following my work for a while, you’ve almost certainly heard me mention the Jasper Dark Sky Festival or at the very least you’ve seen me post a photo or timelapse from the park. For the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend and I’m thrilled to let everyone know I’ll making my way back this year, too!
The Jasper Dark Sky Festival was the first dark sky party I had ever attended. It’s been so exciting to return each year to watch the Tourism Jasper team continuously outdo themselves. I honestly don’t know how they manage to do it and they certainly don’t set a low bar!
In addition to a growing list of events, the past festivals have had speakers like Col. Chris Hadfield, Bill Nye, Natalie Drake, and many other impressive names. So, what does this year have in store? Well, between October 13th and 22nd there's a whole lot planned.
Whether you already have plans to attend for the first time, if you’re on the fence or if you’ll be heading back to continue exploring like I am, read on for this list of 10 you have to be excited about the Jasper Dark Sky Fest!
1. Jasper is one of the largest Dark Sky Preserves in the world - If you’re familiar with Jasper, you probably already knew this, but this is a pretty big reason why Jasper makes for a great dark sky party destination.
2. Surrounded by the Alberta Rockies –One of the things that many dark sky parks end up suffering from is a terrible light glow on the horizon from towns or cities often over an hour away. Some of my favorite parks in the South West US sadly suffer from this situation. One of things that makes Jasper so special is its incredible location. The park itself is pretty isolated and in addition to local light pollution being regulated you’ll find yourself being surrounded by the incredible Alberta Rockies.
3. Beyond the Stars at Lake Annette – One of my favorite events of each year has been the event at Lake Annette. Each year, this event has brought more and more people out to the look through telescopes set up all over the field, walk through incredible “night sky inspired art”, and enjoy a beautiful view of the night sky. The first year I visited, I was shooting a timelapse video and my schedule was insanely busy. I attended this event for it’s duration and setup one of cameras facing over Lake Annette and another back at the crowd. I wandered through and just listened to people share their excitement with strangers that were surely becoming friends. Hearing and seeing so many people share their love of the night sky really made and is something that will continue to make this a highlight of the festival.
This year the Beyond the Stars takes place on Friday, October 20th.
4. Downtown Jasper & Family Activities – What does a town site have to do with a Dark Sky Festival? Well, during the day, there will be events (for all ages) scattered throughout Jasper like the rocket launches at Centennial Field. Part of what I love about wandering through the town is how much the whole town embraces the festival. I definitely make (multiple) stops to grab a special dark sky inspired coffee drinks from SnowDome, and at least one or two stops at the Bear's Paw Bakery and absolutely hit Wicked Cup any time I’m driving past it. And that just covers coffee and baked goods! I try to find a different place to eat each year and whether it’s Famoso Neapolitan Pizza or Evil Dave's Grill it seems like I’m constantly finding places I make plans to visit again.
5. Keynote Speakers – I won’t lie, each year I feel a little nervous that the festival won’t be able to follow up the amazing keynote speakers from previous years. In the months leading up to the festival, I keep an eye on the Tourism Jasper social media accounts and wait to see some sort of announcement.
Well, this year, much like previous years, I was very excited when I saw the announcement. I’m pretty sure my reaction to hearing Brian Cox and Phil Plait would be the speakers this year was, “woah, that’s pretty awesome.” Maybe not the most eloquent response, but I’ve followed their work for some time and immediately knew it would be another special year at the festival. If you’re unfamiliar with their work, you can check out bios by clicking the links on their green names just above!