About us

Otafest was born in 1999 when the University of Calgary’s Dedicated Otaku Anime Club decided to have a 1 day film festival showing Japanese Animation (anime) to the public.

Over the next decade, Otafest has grown to become a three day festival with approximately 8,000 attendees annually. The festival is run by a non-profit organization (The Otafest Film and Cultural Festival Planning Committee), and while we still showcase anime, it is just a part of the festival experience.

Otafest is an annual conference for anime enthusiasts. We act as a creative outlet for fans, an occasion where they can show their passion and appreciation of the hobby. We are an event where fans can show off the costumes they have made, the music videos they have created, and the art they have painted and drawn. Otafest is a forum for discussion and education. We host educational panels introducing others to the basics of the Japanese language and tips on how to use computer programs to enhance music videos and CG art. In the past, we have hosted guests who explained the process of donning a kimono, demonstrated the intricacies of tea ceremonies, and Iaido (the art of drawing a sword from a scabbard). We have also invited individuals involved in the voice acting and animation industries to speak of their experiences.

Otafest is a marketplace. We gather dozens of vendors together from all over Western Canada to facilitate the best bargain hunting in town. And, of course, we haven’t forgotten our roots: Otafest is an anime festival.

Each year, we host charity events and fundraisers during the festival to be donated to that year’s selected charity. Dedicated rooms such as the Maid Cafe donate their proceeds to the charity as well.

We hope to see you this year!

How we run

Otafest is a Calgary based non-profit organization expressing the values of charity, quality, and transparency. The body of our activity pertains to the promotion of Japanese art, culture, and media in the Canadian community, and our organization rests firmly on the spirit of community collaboration and volunteerism.

Otafest Aurora

Otafest Aurora is a one day winter festival held at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology). It is the successor to Otafest Lite, a festival held from 2009 to 2011.

Otafest Aurora was created in response to feedback from our attendees who wanted a better winter festival. Our team was challenged to provide new experiences that would be exclusive to Aurora while expanding the events that our attendees are familiar with and love. Otafest Aurora features many vendors, a larger Artist Alley, cosplay, as well as panels and showings. The winter festival features a gala dinner and dance, a formal event that adds a level of class never seen before.

Creating Otafest Aurora gave us an opportunity to add a new face to represent our team. Persephone’s best friend, Aurora works to promote the winter festival. While Seph represents the history and traditions of Otafest, Aurora represents the energy, creativity, and enthusiasm of Otafest and all of it’s participants.

Art Team

The Otafest Art Team is a group of artists and designers who work together to improve the Otafest community through engaging and thoughtful art & design. Members of the team contribute to marketing, merchandising, and public relations through a wide variety of projects. Our team members come from different backgrounds and have different talents that allow them to collaborate to improve their skills.

The Otafest Art Team is volunteer based. Just like Otafest executives and staff, our artists are not paid for their work. They do receive compensation through entrance to Otafest and Otafest Aurora, as well as public display of their work through online and physical channels. Art Team members who are in school can receive service hours for their work and/or a reference letter when applying for school or for scholarships. They also receive a copy of any work they produce for their portfolio.

Being a part of the art team requires that you maintain communication through email and Skype. Art team members are required to participate in Otafest planning by attending meetings whenever possible. Living in Calgary is an asset however is not required to be on the art team.

Members on the art team use a variety of software and hardware to complete their work. You are free to use whatever you are comfortable with. The ability to vector your art work is an asset. Experience with the Adobe Creative Suite is also an asset.

As a member of the Otafest Art Team, you will be expected to produce at least one illustration and art for 4 pins throughout the year. While we have deadlines that you will be asked to meet, we are flexible to ensure that you are maintaining a good work-life balance.

The Otafest Art team will add members periodically throughout the year as needed.

If you would like to join the Otafest Art Team, please email artist@otafest.com and include a link to examples of your work.


Otafest Attendees have made charitable donations to various causes through various fundraising drives and activities. These have included the great “head-shaving” initiative of 2010, and the infamous “let’s-put-the-chairman-in-a-dress” fundraising drive of 2011. We are very proud of our community for coming together and donating to great causes!

Festival Dates Attendance Funds Raised Donated To
Otafest 1999 Jul 3 – 4, 1999 Approx. 700
Otafest 2000 Jun 17 – 18, 2000 Approx. 900
Otafest 2001 Sep 15 – 16, 2001 Approx. 700
Otafest 2002 May 24 – 26, 2002 (not tracked)
Otafest 2003 May 24 – 25, 2003 (not tracked)
Otafest 2004 May 15 – 16, 2004 (not tracked)
Otafest 2005 May 21 – 22, 2005 (not tracked)
Otafest 2006 May 21 – 22, 2006 (not tracked)
Otafest 2007 May 19 – 20, 2007 2,709
Otafest 2008 May 16 – 18, 2008 4,278
Otafest 2009 May 15 – 17, 2009 4,361 $ 1,735 Alberta Children’s Hospital
Otafest Lite 2009 Nov 14, 2009 Approx. 900 $ 5,000 Mustard Seed
Otafest 2010 May 21 – 23, 2010 3,697 $ 5,300 Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
Otafest Lite 2010 Nov 13, 2010 Approx. 800 $ 2,000 Children’s Cottage Society
Otafest 2011 May 20 – 22, 2011 4,135 $10,398 Japan Red Cross
Otafest Lite 2011 Nov 12, 2011 Approx. 700 $ 1,000 Autism Aspergers Friendship Society of Calgary
Otafest 2012 May 18 – 20, 2012 4,938 $11,000 Calgary Humane Society
Otafest Aurora 2012 Dec 15, 2012 843
Otafest 2013 May 17 – 19, 2013 4,947 $ 12,474 Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Branch
Otafest Aurora 2013 Nov 30, 2013 1,716 $ 2,300 Seniors Secret Service
Otafest 2014 May 16 – 18, 2014 7,787 $13,500 Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society
Otafest Aurora 2014 Nov 29, 2014 2,040 $ 1,500 Boys & Girls Clubs of Calgary
Otafest 2015 May 15 – 17, 2015 8,990 $10,100 Distress Centre Calgary
Otafest Aurora 2015 Nov 13 – 14, 2015 2,542 $ 1,500 Children’s Cottage Society
Otafest 2016 Jul 1 – 3, 2016 7,995 $10,000 United Way of Calgary