Last weekend, I went to Servus Heritage Days for the first time in more than a decade. This may be Edmonton’s version of heresy, but I’m wondering if the festival isn’t in need of some revitalization.
The whole thing seems to have gotten a bit stale. Except for the inclusion of pavilions for Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan, not much seems to have changed since the first few times I went. There were the same ubiquitous kebabs, flat breads and varieties of dumplings for sale along with the same kinds of trinkets and knickknacks.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of celebrating the variety of cultures that make up the Edmonton mosaic. And I’m quite aware that thousands of us still go to the festival every year. I’m just wondering if we could turn the festival into a much more engaging event. One of the keys to doing so might be to take a look back to the past.
When I first came to Edmonton, the late non-lamented Klondike Days was still going strong. Though I, like many others, wondered what right we had to appropriate the name from the Yukon, it was still interesting to see so many women and men dressed up in their elaborate costumes. Store fronts were decorated accordingly and, for a few years, the promenade was still a major event that drew people into the downtown.
Perhaps we should consider creating a Heritage Days week during which people would be encouraged to wear their native costumes to work in the same way that people were once encouraged to dress Klondike. I think it would be both interesting and a lot of fun to see our co-workers and friends dressed in saris, kimonos, caftans, lederhosen and any number of other folkloric costumes. It would certainly be a way to truly celebrate the multicultural nature of our city and it would serve to draw the kind of national media attention this city wants and needs.
Sir Winston Churchill Square could be used to showcase one or two cultures each year. That would provide us with a real opportunity to learn more about our neighbours. And perhaps we could create a heritage promenade along Jasper Avenue where all and sundry could exhibit their ethnic finery. That being done, we could all repair to Hawrelak Park to scarf down as many kebabs as we wanted.