Go BIG or go home Calgary’s Big Winter Classic festival prepares to heat up the town

Summer festivals compete to stand out, but for Adrian Urlacher, director of BIG, the winter festival was a much needed event.

“We realized that there’s a massive hole,” said Urlacher. 

“Every major market in Canada has a winter festival, and Calgary had none.”

Urlacher’s motive for starting this festival was to create an inclusive environment to show the diversity of Calgary’s local music scenes. BIG is now in its fourth year, doubling the number of bands playing in their first year. BIG hosted 48 bands in their first year, but this year they have 105, with 68 being from Alberta.

“If you’re a true music fan, I promise we’ve got something for you,” said Urlacher.

BIG focuses on showcasing Calgary’s diverse music scene. From Indigenous drum circles to hip-hop venues, Calgary has a massive music scene, of whcih many Canadians are unaware. 

Calgary hosts many music festivals in the summer, but it is still synonymous with The Calgary Stampede. Most of Canada views Calgary as the “cowboy drunk dance city” in the summer, and Urlacher plans to change that mindset.

“The highlight of BIG is the fact that the bands that play in BIG stay and party,” said Urlacher, adding that BIG is comparable to a large house party.

Urlacher states that he hopes BIG will reinvent “electric avenue” on Calgary’s Beltline. He would rather the Beltline be known for its inclusivity of the culture of art, than notorious for being a party strip.

“I would love to see a cultural shift in the idea of a party street being turned into a culture street,” said Urlacher.

“I have lived, partied, and gone to shows on the Beltline for over ten years, and Broken City was on the forefront of most of it,” he said.

“They’ve been the place to be to see the diversity of music that Calgary has to offer.”

Broken City has been involved with BIG since its conception back in 2016, and has watched the festival grow to what it is now. They are one of the five venues hosting BIG this year. The other four are The Palomino, Last Best, King Eddy, and Inner City Brewing.

“People are aching to get out,” said Alan Lindsay, the general manager of Broken City.

“The holidays in December hurt a lot of people’s wallets, and having a festival in January to help people unwind after being so stressed is definitely a morale booster for the city,” said Lindsay.

Heavydive, a local Calgary band, has played in festivals in the city over the years, and this year they are playing at BIG for the first time.

“BIG is very streamlined,” said Randall Squires, Heavydive’s lead vocalist. 

“Everyone knows what they’re doing, they’re very professional.

“Everyone at BIG seems very passionate about what they’re doing,” he added.

BIG runs from Thursday, Jan. 24 to Sunday, Jan. 27. Tickets are available online.

Big Winter Classic


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