Mack and I were thrilled when the Heritage Festival asked us to be a part of their judging panel to help identify outstanding pavilions this year.
On Sunday, we took the bus to Hawrelak Park and met up with our two fellow judges – former City Councillor Michael Phair and CTV News Director Glenn Kubish. Though I knew it would be logistically impossible for the four of us to review 63 pavilions representing 85 cultures, I wasn’t sure how the cull would be taking place.
With our fellow judges
It turned out that the Festival administration had conducted a preliminary round of judging the afternoon before, and had whittled the massive list down to seven or eight finalists in each of three categories: arts and crafts, entertainment and food.
Board Vice President Sue Ooraikul Thomas oriented the group and provided each of us with a binder outlining the judging guidelines, and sheets we would be using to record our scores and comments. We decided that by splitting into two teams, we would be able to cover more ground (particularly in the performance category, as shows are not continuously offered).
Michael and Glenn get ready to roll
One of the highlights was undoubtedly getting to use a golf cart for the duration of our judging duties. I was always envious, on those scorching hot afternoons, of the people who would zip nonchalantly by in their covered cart. Well, for a few hours, we got to experience the joys of such convenience ourselves!
The view from the golf cart
It was funny though – we were stopped by numerous people who assumed that we were staff or volunteers (which, I suppose, we were). We had to learn the lay of the land pretty quick in order to direct people to washrooms, ATMs, and specific pavilions.
Mack hearts the cart
It’s no surprise, really, but the judging criteria really made us more aware of certain things, aspects of pavilions that even after years of attending the festival, I had never really noticed. It was an interesting exercise, and as Mack agreed, made us look at all of the pavilions (after our judging duties were over) in a different way.
Chris cooks up a storm at the French pavilion
After about four hours, we met up with Michael and Glenn to compare notes. Though I thought it would be more of a challenge to come up with our top-three in each category, it wasn’t difficult at all:
Arts and Crafts
We both really enjoyed the experience – thanks again to the Festival Board for thinking of us!
Our judging duties over, we took our time and wandered through the grounds, stopping at pavilions we didn’t get a chance to see the first time around.
Dancers at the Thailand pavilion
Three tenors at the Italian pavilion
Lion dances on the Taiwanese stage (yes, we were hit by the lettuce)
Finger puppets at the Chilean tent
The Scandinavian pavilion in Lego!
Vuvuzelas at the Africa OYI pavilion
Cooking up chicken skewers at the Japanese pavilion
So much corn
We were happy to hear that the Festival was “going green”, with Earth Friendly Distributors providing biodegradable plates, bowls, napkins and utensils, and Waste Management providing receptacles for biodegradable materials. Unfortunately, the system needed some improvements, as several pavilions we visited were doling out Styrofoam plates and plastic cutlery. Also – some of the bins could have definitely used emptying, in order to encourage the diversion from regular waste.
Though many of our food tickets went toward drinks to keep us hydrated and cool, we were able to try some interesting items, including an arepa from the Venezuelan tent, and fried plantain from the Congolese tent (I thought Mack would like plantain, given his love of bananas…but ultimately, the starch was too much for him).
Shaved ice from the Hong Kong pavilion
My annual Heritage Festival treat – langos from the Hungarian pavilion
Mack’s annual treat – perogies from the Ukraine pavilion
The Heritage Festival is one of the those events that really represents the best of Edmonton – its diversity, its energy, its spirit. Richard LaSueur, Past President, indicated that they are at capacity at Hawrelak Park (with a limited number of outlets to connect power and water), and will need to expand in order to accommodate all of those who apply. I do hope they can achieve this in the coming years – the Heritage Festival is a vibrant celebration that shoots for the moon, and reaches it.