'Everything came together': Organizers call 2022 HeritageFest a success
Organizers are calling the first full-sized HeritageFest in two years – and last heritage festival in Hawrelak Park for the foreseeable future – a success.
"The sun, everything came together," Jim Gibbon, executive director of Edmonton Heritage Festival Association, told CTV News Edmonton on Monday.
"If you look around, people are showing up – thank goodness – and it's great just to be able to do it again full out and not say no to any pavilions, it's really, really nice."
The association put on a fledgling festival in 2021, selling half of its normal 300,000 tickets and hosting half of its average 70 pavilions.
Attendance numbers for 2022 haven't been finalized yet, but Salman Nasser, Edmonton president of the Pakistan Canada Association, said it was great to be one of 68 pavilions back.
"Edmonton and Alberta is about festivals, the city of festivals, the provinces of festival. So good to see people are having fun, enjoying and coming forward to see culture and heritage and, you know, having a good time."
HeritageFest will not return to Hawrelak Park in 2023, as the park is slated to be closed for three years for rehabilitation work.
"Hopefully it's only three years; we'll see. And who knows, if we could find a great new home, maybe we'll stay in the new home," Gibbon commented.
He said the Edmonton Heritage Festival Association has been negotiating on potential sites for a few years.
"There's some really great sites just on the edge of town, right on the freeway and things. There's a couple parks and things that would be amazing… The reality is there's lots of places, it's just finding the right one. And we have lots of time. We put this whole thing together in about 72 hours, so as long as we pick the site before – I don't know – the Monday before the festival, we should be fine," he joked.
"[Pavilions] just want to make sure there's an event next year, right, and for the next three years. And we know that'll happen."
"This is the biggest park we have in Edmonton," Nasser pointed out. "So pressure on Jim, but still, I guess, if any person can do it, that would be Jim."
The festival – normally one of Edmonton's Food Bank's most successful drives – only saw about 7,500 kilograms of food donated. That is roughly 15 per cent of previous years. However, both Gibbon and food bank executive director Marjorie Bencz noted more people have been donating money online, the impact of which isn't measured in the same way.
"If people are doing that kind of support, that's appreciated as well," Bencz said.
The food bank is serving double the number of people it did in 2020 with its hamper program, an estimated 35,000 Edmontonians.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jessica Robb