'They miss the culture': Edmonton Heritage Festival brings food, sun and dancing back to Hawrelak Park

Article content

Smoky skies and sweltering sun couldn’t stop Edmontonians from enjoying day two of the Heritage Festival at William Hawrelak Park Sunday.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

After COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 festival, pavilion organizers and volunteers were excited to be back at the park to share their culture with the community.

Hundreds gathered at the Israel pavilion in the afternoon to watch the Aviv Israeli Dance Association perform. Dancers wearing red were waving around yellow “wings” in one of their dances and they got the audience involved in another.

“We had great crowds at every show,” said Stacey Leavitt-Wright, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, the organizers of the pavilion. “People have been out here just clapping along, joining in our interactive dancing, some people are taking videos and they’re excited to be part of things.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Festival goers also saw a Jewish wedding display in one of the Israel pavilion’s tents, a brand-new display, according to Leavitt-Wright. The display listed elements of a traditional Israeli Jewish wedding, had clothing on display and a volunteer was on standby to answer any questions.

‘Making an effort to engage’

“We have 100 volunteers here over the weekend and they’re really making an effort to engage with people to answer their questions about the history, the country, what you’re going to see in some of the cities, so it’s been really neat to see that engagement,” said Leavitt-Wright.

Just a short walk over from the Israel tent, crowds were lined up for donairs at the Turkish pavilion — they were selling for $8 and baklava for $5. People were also standing in lines of up to 30 people waiting to get their taste of Mexico. The pavilion was selling tamales for $7 and three tacos for $12.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

On the other side of the foot bridge, hundreds gathered in a circle to watch dances at the Indigenous People’s pavilion.

“Nobody’s been dancing for the last two years, so this is one of the first opportunities that we get to dance,” said Ron Walker, executive director at the Canadian Native Friendship Centre and pavilion co-ordinator.

“For me, it’s just exciting and it’s well attended because everybody feels it themselves, they miss the culture they’re used to seeing over the last couple of years and this is a good wake up call to not take things for granted.”

Métis jiggers and pow wow dancers performed to traditional music and Walker shared some knowledge about the feathers the dancers wear  — one feather means they’re single, two feathers means they’re married and three feathers means it’s complicated, he told the audience with a laugh.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

This year has also brought light to residential schools with unmarked graves being found throughout the country and walker said it’s important to continue sharing the Indigenous cultures.

“When I look at culture and I look at how we’re getting these young people to dance today, it just kind of says that, yes, there were residential schools and colonialism, and a lot of them wanted to destroy who we were as Indigenous people, but we’re still here,” he said.

Beating the heat

The Palestine pavilion saw long lines for its ice cream, as people were tapping their credit cards to cool off during the hot afternoon.

The energy was also high at the Côte d’Ivoire pavilion where people were dancing to the DJ’s tunes, shopping for traditional clothing and banging the taboo, the country’s traditional drum.

“It’s been joyful over here and it’s a pleasure to see people are interested in our food and want to buy our clothes,” said Madina Traore, a volunteer. “It’s nice to actually see we can give others what’s in our country and show them how we’re like, what we eat and what we wear, it’s been interesting.”

ktaniguchi@postmedia.com

@kellentaniguchi

Advertisement

Story continues below

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Latest articles

Related articles