Support from northerners like you keeps our journalism alive. Sign up here.



Fort Smith’s Dark Sky Festival will take place in person

Kids at the Dark Sky Festival in 2016. Photo: Bill Braden


After moving online due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the South Slave’s Dark Sky Festival will return to in-person activities this year. 

From August 19-22, festival attendees will be immersed in the science and mystery of the vast space beyond our planet with activities ranging from stargazing to science demonstrations and lessons in basic astronomy. 

The annual family-friendly Dark Sky Festival is hosted by Wood Buffalo National Park and the Thebacha and Wood Buffalo Astronomical Society, a non-profit based in Fort Smith that provides astronomy programs and activities. 



While an entry point into the world of space science, the Dark Sky Festival is also a celebration of the NWT’s proximity to the world’s largest dark sky preserve.

Half of the festival is held at Pine Lake in Wood Buffalo National Park, about 60 km outside Fort Smith.

The country’s largest national park doubles as the largest dark sky preserve in the world.

A science demonstration at the Dark Sky Festival in 2019. Photo: Wood Buffalo National Park
The Aurora Borealis over Wood Buffalo National Park. Photo: Peter McMahon

Mike Couvrette, a member of the Thebacha and Wood Buffalo Astronomical Society, has organized all 10 Dark Sky Festivals since they began in 2012. 



Couvrette told Cabin Radio setting up the festival this year was “challenging.”

In previous years, Couvrette said, the festival was fully planned and organized by early April. This year, organizers couldn’t start working on in-person planning until some Covid-19 restrictions were eased in mid-June. 

The Dark Sky Festival at Pine Lake in 2017. Photo: Janna Jaque

The festival will see some changes this year to accommodate Covid-19 protocols and meet insurance requirements. 

A popular spectator event, the kid-friendly model rocket-making program, will not be returning this year. Keynote speaker presentations will remain virtual, Couvrette said.

The number of festival participants has been capped at 125 people to accommodate physical distancing among other Covid-19 protocols. 

Couvrette said the festival was two-thirds full as of Thursday afternoon.

A full schedule and registration details can be found on the festival’s website