Reason #23 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

Heritage Festival (The Melting Pot)

By Emil Tiedemann

Standing in the line-up outside of On the Rocks in downtown Edmonton one winter night, my buddy and I started up a conversation with the guy in front of us. He seemed to be shivering slightly more than the rest of us in line, and as it turns out, it was because he was new to Edmonton from the tiny African island nation of Mauritius, which does not get to see winters quite like ours. 

I had never met anyone from Mauritius before, or at least that I knew of. Later that night, my buddy and I cabbed it home, as the driver told us about his old life in his home country of India, far different from the life he leads now, he said. When we got back to my buddy’s place, he told me about this girl Kristy, from Slovenia, who was coming to stay with him as a “couch surfer.” 

All night, we were exposed to the glaring diversity that our hometown has embraced with open arms. At our workplaces, inside our classrooms, and on the street themselves you’ll notice an array of vibrant colours and cultures that represent more than 140 nations from all corners of the planet. 

One time every year, we all come together to celebrate as one, reveling in the melting pot that is Edmonton. The Servus Heritage Festival blankets Hawrelak Park for three days during the Civic Holiday long weekend, enticing nearly 400,000 locals to indulge in the sounds, tastes, smells, and wonders of more than 85 international cultures. 

That’s quite the evolution when you consider that less than a dozen nations were part of the very first Heritage Festival, in 1976. Four decades later, pavilions for newcomers Rwanda, Morocco, Lebanon, and South Sudan were on full display for locals who come to the Heritage Festival each year to experience people from other parts of the world - what they eat and drink, their fashions and traditions, the music they listen to and the way they dance to it. 

It is one of the longest-running annual events in Edmonton, and surely one of the most important, because it celebrates the very essence of what Canada is: a multicultural nation built on a legacy of acceptance, understanding, respect, and of course, diversity. #yegheritagefest


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