Edmonton Heritage Festival promoting and encouraging COVID-19 safety measures

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The Edmonton Heritage Festival is going completely contactless this year and organizers are encouraging attendees to follow COVID-19 safety measures.

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Jim Gibbon, executive director of Edmonton Heritage Festival Association (EHFA), said cash will not be accepted at this year’s event, which runs from this Saturday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Hawrelak Park and features 46 pavilions. Timed entry tickets are available on the festival’s website and are needed for entry into the park. The tickets are free of charge and are limited to 4,000 people per time block.

“It’s the way we make sure we don’t have too many people at any time, so we have safe social distancing on site,” said Gibbon at a press conference on Wednesday. “There’s no tickets, there’s no cash on site, it’s just credit and debit cards.”

Organizers are also asking festival goers to wear a face mask but they have extras on site if you forget yours at home.

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“We’re in a bit of a difficult situation because all of our planning was around having people masked on site and for everybody’s safety, we really hope people will mask,” said Gibbon. “We will be requesting it. Unfortunately, we’re in a situation right now where we can’t formally enforce it because of the provincial restrictions.”

Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the site, picnic tables will be spread further apart than in previous years and staff will paint white circles on the ground for people to stand in and stay physically distanced from others, said Gibbon.

After COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 festival, Gibbon says there is a lot of emotion heading into the long weekend.

“It actually almost brings a tear to your eye because this is such an important event,” said Gibbon. “It’s so important to Edmonton, it’s so important for multiculturalism … and I think events like this make the world a better, kinder place. So, it’s really emotional to see it coming back.”

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Robert Opara, president of EHFA, said for the last 46 years, the festival’s mission has been to promote public awareness, understanding and appreciation for cultural diversity.

“Our festival demonstrates that in celebrating the richness of our diversity, we find common ground and build mutual understanding,” said Opara. “I’m grateful for our multicultural Canadian society and for the opportunity it has given me, and to all of us, to celebrate our heritage and share our cultures with one another.”

ETS will be providing park-and-ride services to and from the festival again, with a $6 fare required upfront for a ride to and from the park. People can pay $6, two bus tickets, or any other way that equals the $6 value.

“We have a full complement of buses out this year, it’s a little bit new again and with the timed entry, we’re anticipating that our buses will be full,” said Gary Lamont, ETS supervisor.

ktaniguchi@postmedia.com

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