The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is casting a spotlight not only on performers from around the world, but on local food vendors and other businesses.
Thousands of "Fringers" are flocking to venues across the city's downtown this week, with many ordering from food vendors and shopping at area shops in between shows.
"I think it's one of the best times in the entire year in downtown Winnipeg," Derrick Coupland said as he enjoyed the festivities on Tuesday.
At Fired Up, a family-run pizza truck that hit the streets this year, staff are dishing out more than 200 wood-fired pizzas a day during the festival.
"The response from people has been awesome … nothing but positive feedback," said Tony Palmieri.
Staff with Stella's Cafe and Bakery, which has a food booth in The Exchange District during the festival, say sales are up by about 25 per cent over last year's Fringe booth sales.
"It's huge for us to be here and to be able to give back to the community in the way of this kind of outdoor setting," said Stephanie Melanson, Stella's director of catering.
The Fringe is also good business at The Haberdashery, a men's and women's accessory shop that has been operating in the Exchange for six years.
"Obviously, there's a lot of traffic down here," said owner Luke Nolan.
"Venues scattered throughout the area brings in extra people, plus there's a busker circle almost right outside the door."
Set to break attendance record
Fringe organizers announced Tuesday that attendance records were set for Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, with Saturday being the biggest single-ticket sales day in the festival's history.
By day's end Sunday, 50 performances had sold out and a total of 40,054 tickets were sold.
Organizers said Tuesday that they believe the festival is set to break the overall attendance record set last year.
However, the festival has not been without controversy — one performer, Theresa Thomson, has come under attack for her take on the life of the Virgin Mary in Lies of a Promiscuous Woman.
Thomson's show posters and her car have been marked with words like "slut" and "blasphemer," and she said people yelled similar words to her on the street. As well, there have been requests to have her show shut down.
Fringe organizers said Tuesday they are "deeply concerned by these incidents" and are providing extra security for Thomson and any other performers who are concerned for their safety.
"The reaction to Lies of a Promiscuous Woman is not indicative of audience responses to Fringe shows," Chuck McEwen, the festival's executive producer, stated in a news release.
"Audiences are generally extremely supportive of the festival and appreciate an artist's freedom to discuss or address topical issues or sensitive subject matter."