What – The world’s largest three day celebration of multiculturalism. Started in 1976, with only 20,000 visitors, it grew to 85,000 in 1977 and 320,000 in 1982. Attendance typically runs between 300-400,000 annually.
Where – William Hawrelak Park, Edmonton, Alberta – a 350 acre riverside park proposed by Mayor William Hawrelak in 1954 and first opened in 1967.
When – Over the August Civic Holiday weekend each year – August 3-5/19
Why – to honour and celebrate the diverse nature of our population and promote awareness, understanding and appreciation for cultural diversity.
Who – 2,200 volunteers, 100 countries, 73 pavilions, 50 shared stages, 900 cultural and dance shows, 70 kitchens, each serving up their cultural delicacies, up to 500,000 visitors annually (the record for attendance was set at 498,000 in 2017, with 348,000 visitors showing up on the Sunday, that year.
The Skinny – Admission to the grounds and festival is free. Most cultural cuisines can be purchased by using tickets, either bought in advance or at the gate. $40 CA gets you 40 tickets. Item prices vary, but the two of us did fine on 40 tickets. Some drinks and ice cream may be purchased for cash. Many pavilions offer goods from their country for sale. Payment methods vary, but cash or debit are preferred.
The 3 day event is a major fundraiser for the local Edmonton Food Bank and receives an average of 50,000 kg/year (1.4 million kg between 1984 and 2013). All non-perishable food items and cash donations gratefully accepted.
Private cars are not permitted on the site. Transit options include:
- Park and Ride buses from numerous locations throughout the city (check out the Heritage Fest website). Fare $6 return
- A Kiss and Ride Zone where passengers can be dropped off near the park gate.
- You can walk to the park.
- You can cycle to the park
I am not sure why it is human nature to always think their way is the right way or the only way that things should be. This thinking promotes so many conflicts in society and around the world. If we would only open up our eyes to new things, we would see that most people are just like us, they want to make a decent living, they want to have shelter from the elements, they want to have food in their bellies and they want to have fun, when the work is done. Heritage Days certainly gives us all a chance to experience new sights, sounds and tastes and for three days at least, harmony can exist, as we all have fun.
The question each year is not “Are we going to Heritage Days?” It is “Which day are we going to Heritage Days?”
We opted for opening day, Saturday and were on site by 11:00 AM. If you are from the area, you know June and July have been very rainy. Parts of the site were a bit of a mud bog yesterday and the rest were simply soaked. We wore our waterproof hikers and coped very well.
Our first and third food stop was at the Hungarian Pavilion for Langos (fried dough). First stop was for savoury (garlic salt) and third was for sweet (icing sugar). OK, we are full now.
Ukrainian fashion show, depicting preparations for a wedding.
Our plan to see the shows was to wander around until we heard one starting up, then head over and watch. This meant we sometimes arrived just as the show was ending, but by the end of our visit, it was working quite well. This was the Guatemalan cultural show.
Shots of the grounds and pavilion exteriors.
Colourful displays and wares for sale.
Bits and pieces.
Foods and such.
Cultural performances too numerous to mention. The K-Pop group at the Korean pavilion seemed to be having the most fun and so was their audience.
Indigenous Peoples cultural display. This one was one of our favourite shows on the day. So much colour and symbolism.
We were just about to leave the site, when this Eritrean dance group started their show. We had to stay and watch.
This little guy was just bubbling over Heritage Days and was having a great time blasting bubbles at all who passed by.
As we left the site around 2:30 PM, busload after busload of visitors piled into the site. Up along Groat Road, cars emptied out their passengers and walkers and cyclists made a steady stream into the site. This might be another attendance record year. We can’t wait for next year.