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Key City Theatre’s latest arts season brings iconic elephant mascot “Ed” back to life

Ed’s escape from the Cranbrook circus made him famous, and his memory lives on through KCT festival
The 2023-24 arts season starts off with Ed Fest, which celebrates the intriguing history of Ed the elephant whose escape from the circus in Cranbrook made him famous in local community lore (photo from Cranbrook archives)

Key City Theatre has officially announced its 2023-24 season lineup and it is full of exciting musical and theatrical performances.

The season begins with Ed Fest on Sept. 9 in Rotary Park, held from 2 to 11 p.m. This first-time community event will have something for everyone, from beer gardens and artisan markets, to live music and public art.

The festival was aptly named after Ed the elephant whose escape from the travelling circus in Cranbrook has made him famous in local community lore. Long-time residents may be familiar with the elephant statue on the west end of Baker St., which pays tribute to this historical event.

Here’s how the story goes. In August 1926, fourteen elephants escaped from Floto Sells Circus while it was touring in Cranbrook and stampeded down Baker St. Although most were caught and rounded up within a day, Ed disappeared into the hills with two of his giant friends in tow.

A famous elephant trainer named Frank Gardner was flown in to track the trio and he worked with Ktunaxa guides to locate them. Two of the elephants were found within a few weeks, one of whom died from starvation, but Ed remained at large for a month and a half. When he was finally caught and returned to town, he was a celebrity. He was christened “Cranbrook Ed,” complete with flowers and champagne.

Cranbrook Ed will be brought back to life at Ed Fest through use of a giant 16-foot replica puppet designed by artist Marcel DuRoig. This fabric elephant has a mischievous streak and his main focus will be to cause havoc at the festival. No one knows exactly what Ed will do. His playful plans will be a surprise.

The History Centre will be provide a complete history of Ed at the festival and attendees will get to participate in a stampede alongside him. Locals are encouraged to wear carnival costumes to suit the circus escape theme.

“There’s a really great opportunity with this moment in history that we tell a little bit of in Cranbrook, but we could certainly tell it a bit more,” said Key City director Galen Olstead.

“… The overall idea is that we’re doing a day of arts celebration in Cranbrook. [We were] looking for an idea that kind of captures setting-the-arts-free in Cranbrook.”

Beyond its lovable mascot, the festival will give locals the chance to see and create local art. Key City Theatre will be putting out a call for paintings, sculpture and textiles to display at the event. Cranbrook Arts will hold an art competition.

Key City Theatre will partner with the Cranbrook Farmer’s Market to offer an artisan market.

Invermere-based band L-8 and Fernie-based band Blues Steel will rock the afternoon away at the pavilion. In the evening, headliners Garret T. Willie and Five Alarm Funk will take the stage, and circus performers will round out the night.

“Hopefully we plant the seed and see in future years the same festival,” said Olstead.

Ed Fest is just the beginning of a wonderful art-filled season. Here’s what else is on at Key City Theatre.

David James and Big River

This Johnny Cash cover band sweeps through Cranbrook on Sept. 23 on their “outlaw country” tour. They take their audience on a nostalgic journey as they pay tribute to a music giant whose songs left their mark on the hearts and minds of people across the country.

Matthew Good

Juno award winning Canadian artist Matthew Good is performing at Key City Theatre on Oct. 1. He’ll play recent solo hits, as well as classics from his days as frontman for the Matthew Good Band — one of the most successful Canadian alternative rock groups in the 90s and early 00s.

Hey Viola!

Krystle Dos Santos performs as Canadian civil rights activist Viola Desmond in this historic musical that walks audience members through pivotal moments in her storied life. Desmond was a black Nova Scotian who fought tirelessly for equal rights and stood up against racial injustices. Many know her as the face on the $10 bill. The play will show on Oct. 10.

Tim Hicks & Teigen Gayse

Multi-platinum award-winning country artist Tim Hicks is touring his recently released album Campfire Troubadour Volume II, and he’s stopping in Cranbrook on Oct. 26. He and special guest Teigen Gayse will deliver a performance that leaves the audience reminiscent of late summer nights at the campfire with friends.

Dog Man: The Musical

This heartwarming musical follows Dog Man, a policeman who has the head of a dog and a human body. The quirky character spends his days fighting crime and eating furniture. Can he save the city from Flippy the cyborg fish and his army of Beasty Buildings? Can he catch Petey, the world’s most evil cat, who has cloned himself to exact revenge on friendly doggy citizens? Join in on the adventure on Nov. 2.

Casting Off

An inter-generational acrobatic trio from Australia perform jaw-dropping maneuvers and gravity-defying stunts as they deliver philosophical musings about living life on the edge. Their show is coming to Cranbrook on Nov. 5.

As The Crow Flies

As The Crow Flies is celebrating 20 years of small-town balladeer music with a performance on Nov. 10. Their haunting voices and acoustic folksy music fill any auditorium, and transport audiences to the majestic mountains and dense conifer forests.

Kootenay Vaudeville Affair

Prepare to be dazzled by this sexy and sparkly burlesque show on Nov.18. Jeez Loueez, Sucre à la Crème, Kage Wolfe and Miami Minx are the stars of this Kootenay tour, which will also stop in Creston on Nov. 10, Nelson on Nov. 12 and Trail on Nov. 17.

Finger Eleven

Juno award-winning Canadian rock band Finger Eleven will deliver hits from past and present on Nov. 20. They are known for songs like Paralyzer, One Thing, Living In A Dream, Slow Chemical and Stay In Shadow.

Middle Raged

Geri Hall and Gary Pearson star in this hilarious comedy that explores the end-of-life crisis seniors experience when they feel they’re running out of time. It delves into topics like child-rearing, empty nests, aging parents and financial stress. Prepare to laugh your stocks off on Nov. 23.


This Kootenay band returns to the area on Nov. 30 to play an energetic and uplifting performance for an eager audience. Bandmates Nathan Gurley and Sean Rodman have a unique sound that combines folk, rock, old-time blues and electronic music in a style that is just as lively and danceable as it is relaxing and peaceful.

Jesus Christ Superstar

This Broadway musical, performed by a crew of local actors, debuts on Dec. 31 and runs into the new year from Jan. 12-14 and Jan. 18-20. It dives deep into the psyche of Jesus and also Judas, who is dissatisfied with the direction Jesus is leading his disciples in. Its music, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and written by Tim Rice, is an ode to the late 60s rock area and gives the ancient biblical tale a refreshing modern twist.

The Great Canadian Roadtrip

Canadian country music legends Doc Walker, Jason McCoy and Michelle Wright are teaming up for a national tour and they’re headed to Cranbrook on Jan. 30. Together, they’ll bring decades of experience to the stage.

The High Bar Gang

This seven-person bluegrass ensemble delivers an impressive performance that makes listeners nostalgic for country sunsets and small-town romances, and brings sassy outlaws to life. They take to the stage on Feb. 8.

Harcore Love

Iva Handfull, Bea Lissima and MC Ivory team up to offer this unconventional Valentine’s Day burlesque show on Feb.10., complete with heavy-rock music and fire-eating.

Anne of Green Gables

This beloved Canadian classic is now a ballet with choreography from Bengt Jörgen. Its romantic dance style brings the fictional town of Avonlea to life, and captures Anne’s feisty and spirited character and whimsical inner world. See it on stage on Feb. 22.

Women Who Laff

Julie Kim, one of Canada’s favourite stand-up comedians, will stop in Cranbrook on March 6 on her North American tour. Jokes about her Asian heritage, motherhood and the perils of modern dating, leave audiences in stitches.

Alex Zerbe’s Zaniac Comedy Show

Two-time Guinness World Record holder Alex Zerbe does a little something of everything in his shows. He likes to juggle flaming torches, balance tables on his face and slice vegetables in half with sharp flying objects. His March 7 performance is fun for the whole family.


Vancouver-based dance artist Vidya Kotamraju is trained in Bharata Natyam, a form of Indian classical dance that originated in Tamil Nadu. She will bring her culture to life through Longing at Key City Theatre on March 9.

Raine Hamilton

If you combined a string quartet with music artists like Joni Mitchell and Sarah Harmer, you’d get the same sound that Raine Hamilton produces. Hamilton is a folk musician who has channelled a love for violin into a music career, and sings about otherworldly abstract concepts like courage and wisdom. See the performance on March 14.

Easy As Pie

Join clowns James and Jamsey on March 23 as they journey inside each others’s memories to determine what’s holding them back. This comedic show, starring Alastair Knowles and Aaron Malkin, is defined by a curious blend of slapstick humour and an analysis of human psychology.

Black and Rural

Performance artist Shayna Jones showcases the stories and experiences of black folks living in rural areas of Canada through this theatrical production showing April 6. She explores the isolation and feelings of otherness that can come from being a racial minority in a small isolated community.

Twin Flames

Inuk-Mohawk musician Jaaji and Algonquin-Métis-Cree artist Chelsey June are a husband and wife duo who perform music inspired by their heritage. They use indigenous spirit flutes and traditional drums, in combination with western instruments, to craft songs that build bridges between cultures. Catch them at Key City Theatre on April 9.

Dino Light

This adventure, showing May 2, tells the story of a famous scientist with magic powers who brings a friendly dinosaur to life. Watch performers dance across the stage with glow-in-the-dark puppets, as they act out this visually stunning story.

Kootenay Children’s Festival

This family favourite returns to Cranbrook on May 10 and 11. Previous years have featured renowned musicians, circus performers, and Indigenous storytelling and dance.

Faces of Pride

A unique photography series that showcases portraits and life stories of LGBTQ2IA+ people is returning to Cranbrook for a second year, although a date has not been selected. The series is the work of renowned international photographer Joel Robison, who created the project so queer people could publicly represent their community and express themselves authentically.

About the Author: Gillian Francis

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