As Albertans, we are extremely proud of our multi-cultural heritage and we also love a good party – that’s why you’ll find festivals here that celebrate cultures from around the world. African, Caribbean, Latino, Asian, British, Ukrainian, French and our founding First Nations, to name a few – each has its own way of celebrating and you’re all invited to the party.
Edmonton’s Sumptuous Heritage Festival
Our Heritage Day long weekend at the beginning of August celebrates the rich cultural diversity in Alberta. The Servus Heritage Festival in Edmonton offers up a three-day event with 60 pavilions representing 85 global communities. Every year, more than a quarter million visitors gather in grassy Hawrelak Park, an inviting green space tucked along the city’s river valley and one of our most beautiful parks.
This is my very favourite summer event – there are food pavilions, dance performances, cultural displays and vendors selling traditional crafts, art and clothing. Admission is free, although food bank donations are encouraged – and since 1984, the festival has collected almost 1.5 million kgs (3.3 million lbs) of food for the community.
You can buy food tickets online ahead of time or pick them up at the booths scattered through the park. Based on my long experience, there are a couple ways to approach it. You could be a happy wanderer and follow your heart from booth to booth, tasting as you go, drifting sweetly from one scrumptious treat to another.
Then again, you could grab a cheese empanada, a festival menu and map your path. Go by region, country or type of food. There’s so much to choose from, my husband and I always pick a theme, like deep-fried bread or chocolate and whipped cream. But however you choose to eat your way around the world, you’re in for a treat.
Colourful Pysanka Festival
Vegreville, just over an hour east of Edmonton, is home to the world’s largest Pysanka (Ukrainian Easter egg) and a huge annual Ukrainian festival. The community celebrates their deep eastern European roots with a three-day festival each July.
Discover colourful traditional dancers at the grandstand shows, live music, folk art and pioneer homesteading demonstrations, like clay oven bread-baking and blacksmithing. Not to mention all the homemade Ukrainian food you can imagine – perogies and sour cream, cabbage rolls and smoky kobasa sausage are just a few of the Baba-made delicacies – bring your appetite!
High-Energy Expo Latino in Calgary
Every year at the end of August, Western Canada’s largest Latin festival takes over Prince’s Island Park on the Bow River in downtown Calgary. This lively festival celebrates the cities many Latin cultures through music, art, dance and food. The big draw is all the music – the main stage attracts award-winning musicians from around the world. Shop for traditional arts and crafts, maybe take a salsa dance class and eat, eat, eat – it’ll probably be spicy and definitely authentic.
Calgary’s Chinatown Street Festival
If you’re in Calgary in August, be sure to take in this free festival downtown in the city’s century-old Chinatown, one of the largest in the country. Watch traditional dragon dances and drumming demos, play games, shop at the street-side booths and take calligraphy lessons. And of course, eat authentic Asian cuisine – dim sum and bubble tea for starters. For me – if you haven’t noticed – it always comes back to the food.