As I approach the “City of Champions” sign while entering Edmonton on highway 2, I decide to take in one of our most popular summer festivals. Heritage Days at William Hawrelak Park is a three day annual event.

Private vehicles are not allowed in the park for this festival so I had to take public transportation. I drove my vehicle around and around til finally I was able to find a parking spot and then walked the two blocks to 116 Street and Jasper Ave which is one of many designated Park n Ride locations for the festival.

After a few minutes of milling around with a managerie of individuals at the bus stop, the bus came and we were all herded aboard like so much cattle. There wasn’t any place to sit so I had to stand and hang on as the driver maneuvered his way through the winding city streets and zig zagging river valley roads for the eight minute experience to the festival bus lot.

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The bus ride itself was interesting. It was a mixture of old ladies with canes, young couples with children in strollers to individuals traveling alone. Once at the park I found it important to make a mental note of where the bus let me off as this is a large park and I didn’t want to forget where to come back too.

This festival is a major event for the local food bank to increase their coffers both financially as well as product on the shelves. I brought a small back pack stuffed with canned goods and mac n cheese. I was happy to finnally deposit the food into the food bank drop off centre as the load was getting heavy.

ImageI immediately spotted an information booth in a tent and picked up a map showing the layout of the tents and pavillions. As I started to get my bearings and look around I realized that thousands of visitors were strolling from tent to tent and stage to stage.

The first performers I came upon were several female dancers from Eritrea. This is a country i’d never heard of before so I went into the tent and spoke to an older gentleman who informed me that Eritrea is a country in the Horn of Africa which, in 1991 gained it’s independence from Ethiopia and which boarders The Red Sea.

Imagel moved on, enjoying the sites and sounds of all the singers, dancers and musicians. Most wore a dizzying array of colourful costumes and performed traditional songs and dance representing their culture.

After awhile I came upon the Russian pavillion where a beautiful young woman was singing traditional Russian songs. After her performance I spoke to her and she told me she was born in Russia but moved to Canada as a young girl. Her name is Tatianna and she is very talented and I imagine we will see much more of her.

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Visitors continued to come and gather around the different venues and enjoy the beautiful weather, entertainment, food and cultural experience.

After about four hours I felt it time I should head out and find a place where I could sit and organize my notes. Back on the bus I was once again crammed into the proverbial sardine can but at least some Edmonton Police Service (EPS) members were directing traffic and so the buses had the right-of-way and so we were not stuck in traffic long.

At last I was back in my vehicle and headed to a wonderful little Italian cafe deep in Little Italy to read over my notes and enjoy a cold Italian soda.

Next week another festival starts called Cariwest Festival celebrating Caribbean culture.

But that is another story .  .  .  .

Martin Blair

Travel Writer

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