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Much-loved Edmonton Heritage Festival celebrates 50 years in new, less-loved, location

Edmonton’s heritage festival is getting the usual rave reviews, but not for its new location.

One of the world’s largest celebrations of multiculturalism wrapped up Sunday marking a 50-year tradition with the vibrant performances and mouthwatering delights it’s known for.

But because of renovations at Hawrelak park, the festival was forced to relocate its 65 tents  to Edmonton Expo Centre, Exhibition Lands and Borden Park.

Designated free buses to and from the festival were not provided as in previous years because of the site’s proximity to the LRT..

Natasha Dorman-Watson missed the park setting of her favourite summer festival. “Maybe it’s just what I’ve grown up with,” she said.

Mary Monteclaro enjoyed the Thai and Filipino performances, but would have preferred to do so amid the shady trees and cool breeze at Hawrelak.

“Here it is quite open, so it gets really hot,” Monteclaro told Edmonton AM, adding that she did find the commute more convenient, “because there’s tons of parking.”

That was not the experience, however, of Gloria James, who lives across the street. She said vehicles packed the streets for a few blocks in every direction.

“There was no parking whatsoever,” James told CBC News. “They had signs up saying ‘absolutely no parking, tag and tow, residents only’ so if they could follow through with that next year that’d be wonderful.”

Woman speaks to CBC standing on a residential street with big trees and vehicles parked on the side of the road.
Gloria James says she didn’t see the city following through with parking infractions around this year’s heritage festival. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Rob Rohatyn, the festival’s new executive director, said it was good to see so many people use the LRT, which is not possible at the Hawrelak site.

He said while he’s pleased with the transition to the new site, there is room for improvement.

“We want to be a good neighbour to the Bellevue neighbourhood,” Rohatyn said. “We want to learn from these experiences and do better next year.” 

The City of Edmonton said vehicles were not towed as it was the first year in the new location but a total of 204 tickets were issued over the three days.

“Parking Enforcement had four dedicated officers in the area, and dispatch was actively monitoring 311 inquiries this weekend to respond to citizen concerns, and to dispatch officers accordingly,” spokesperson Karen McDonnell, wrote in an email.

The Edmonton Food Bank said donations appear to have fallen short despite donations of more than 5,000 kilograms of non-perishable food. Monetary donations are still being tallied.

Non-perishable foods are being accepted at any major grocery store or fire station and money can be donated via text or online.

Heritage festival will be at Exhibition Lands for the next two years while the city rehabilitates Hawrelak park. 

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