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Fort Smith’s 2023 Dark Sky Festival is cancelled

A submitted photo from the Dark Sky Festival in 2014
The Dark Sky Festival in 2014. Photo: Bill Braden


Organizers of the Dark Sky Festival have cancelled the 2023 edition because of the presence of nearby wildfires.

“It is with uttermost disappointment that I have to bring this terrible announcement,” festival coordinator Mike Couvrette wrote as he confirmed the cancellation to ticket-holders.

“Although there is no immediate threat to the community, the wildfire situation in the Fort Smith area and in Wood Buffalo National Park is considered extreme.”

Anyone who had signed up is promised a full refund.



The astronomy-focused festival was due to take place from August 17 to August 20 at sites both in Fort Smith and within the national park, which is the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve.

The location for events inside the park had already been moved once to account for wildfires threatening the usual venue of Pine Lake.

On its website, the festival said cancellation was a “precautionary measure.” The event moved online during 2020’s opening year of the Covid-19 pandemic and was cancelled because of a Covid-19 outbreak in 2021.

Fort Smith was placed on evacuation notice just under a week ago, meaning the town is not immediately threatened but residents are advised to begin their preparations in case the situation worsens.

Fire 7 inside the national park has been creeping north toward Highway 5, while fire SS022 to the north of Fort Smith is being held back by Alberta fire crews.

On Friday, the Town of Fort Smith’s protective services division said both of those fires had grown only minimally in the past day.