Drumroll Please: Judging at the 35th Annual Heritage Festival

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.

Heritage Festival 2010

Heritage Festival

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.

Heritage Festival 2010

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).

Heritage Festival 2010

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!

Heritage Festival 2010

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.

Heritage Festival 2010

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.

Heritage Festival 2010

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

  1. Iraq
  2. Thailand
  3. Scandinavia


  1. China
  2. Philippines
  3. Thailand


  1. Borneo
  2. Scandinavia
  3. Arab

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.

Heritage Festival 2010

Dancers at the Thailand pavilion

Heritage Festival 2010

Three tenors at the Italian pavilion

Heritage Festival 2010

Lion dances on the Taiwanese stage (yes, we were hit by the lettuce)

Heritage Festival 2010

Finger puppets at the Chilean tent

Heritage Festival 2010

The Scandinavian pavilion in Lego!

Heritage Festival 2010

Vuvuzelas at the Africa OYI pavilion

Heritage Festival 2010

Creative marketing

Heritage Festival 2010

Cooking up chicken skewers at the Japanese pavilion

Heritage Festival 2010

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.

Heritage Festival 2010


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).

Heritage Festival 2010

Shaved ice from the Hong Kong pavilion

Heritage Festival 2010


Heritage Festival 2010

Fried plantain

Heritage Festival 2010

My annual Heritage Festival treat – langos from the Hungarian pavilion

Heritage Festival 2010

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.

Heritage Days 2008

Despite the draw of a world of food, our visit to the Heritage Festival this year was much like those in years past – a nice mix of visual and aural performances, scanning for cheap trinkets, and seeing where our next sample plate would come from.

In Hawrelak Park

Mack is a nesting doll!

The skies did threaten rain, but with the exception of a few rain drops, the clouds held up. This may have been one of the reasons the crowds were unusually small on Saturday; there was virtually no line at the ticket booths or at the food vendors themselves.

Getting my Hungarian Langos (fried bread) iced – the best deal of the day for only 3 tickets!

Mack with his plate of (very oily) perogies

Injera with mild chicken sauce from the Ethiopia booth – I’ve tried injera a few times now, and I can’t get used to the sour taste of the bread

Empanada (we should have brought our own plates/cutlery like we did for Taste of Edmonton, but it totally slipped our minds)

We made sure to get to the grounds on time to watch Dickson’s Mum’s dance troop perform in front of the Chinese pavilion. The group of 3-4 year olds were especially cute! Of course, the most notable outcome of watching the performance was a priceless photo op.

"Playing in the Rain" dance

Andrew, Mabel and Mack

We met up with Jane, Yi-Li, Megan and Greg to wander around further.

All smiles with Jane


Yi-Li doing his best to win Jane her plastic bubbles in the Taiwan tent


"English" garden

Enjoying mango-on-a-stick

Me & Mack

Thanks for a fun afternoon, guys! Pictures here.

Heritage Festival 2007

After a mediocre (and expensive) showing of food at the Taste of Edmonton, I was really looking forward to the reasonably-priced variety at the Heritage Festival.

Dancers at the Azerbaijan site

Sure, there are cultural pavillions filled with neat artifacts and intricate handicrafts, and a veritable panoply of eye-catching entertainment, but I would be lying if I proclaimed anything other than the food to be my main reason of attendance.
Every year, I go through the menu with every intention of trying something new, and yet, once on the grounds, underneath the hot sun and facing lines unending, I end up retreating back to my reliable standbys: gelato from Italy (the Bacio wasn’t refreshing, but it was chocolate-y goodness!) and langos (fried bread dough) from the Hungarian pavilion.
Langos (a hazard to eat for those wearing dark colors)
My sister’s Falafel from the Arab pavilion

Our Contiki Tour Manager had urged us to try Dutch pancakes while we were in Amsterdam, but my friends and I weren’t able to locate a stand selling this specialty. So I figured I’d finally get my kicks at the Holland pavilion. Unfortunately, the poffertjes, at least in this incarnation really were nothing special, tasting like mini pancakes made from dry mix dusted with icing sugar.

Still, as Edmonton’s summer festivals go, this is one of my favorites. What better place to pick up inexpensive souvenirs and trinkets?
Dickson getting his fortune read at the Chinese pavilion
Mack wears his special hat
There’s one more day to check out the fun. Just remember to bring a donation for the Food Bank!