Thought For Food

The thought occurred to me again the other day as I was cycling home down 102 Ave. just after I  hit the amber light at 116 St. and about the same time as the aroma from the Bistro India on the corner stopped me: it's time for the Heritage Festival to somehow grow out of Hawrelak Park.

Heritage Festival, #yeg
Every year's August long weekend sees Edmontonians leave their neighbourhoods and head down to Hawrelak for the festival of food, culture, dance and music. Every year, more people show. Arguably, it captures the spirit of the city, or, at least, the multicultural makeup of the city, better than any other festival. And just as arguably, its focus on people and the future provides a nice counterpoint to Calgary's summertime blockbuster extravaganza, the Stampede.

I am not suggesting that the Heritage Festival relocate. The park is a beautiful setting and the weather is typically big sky beautiful, making it a perfect pleasant place to spend a chunk of the municipal holiday. Jack Little and his staff and volunteers are do it up right.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's also time for those who go to the festival to relocate. Back to the neighbourhoods of this city. Maybe back for the first time.

Going to the Heritage Festival is very convenient. It's a smorgasbord. Arrayed in front of you within easy walking distance are pavilion after pavilion of culture. Here is Spain. Next door, Thailand. Then Ukraine, and so on and on. Here you have Edmonton as a theme park right in front of you. It's a metaphor for the uprooting from there and replanting to here that is a common story across the cultural communities that call this city home. It looks and sounds and smells great. The city even gets you there with park-n-ride bus service. It works.

Festival pavilions
And it fits the basic Edmonton festival model that says good people of Edmonton, if you want to experience food or music, assemble, please, at this location and enjoy. Of course, to say that is to immediately admit that festivals, especially The Works, or the jazz festival or the Fringe, do get around a bit, whether it's downtown or in Old Strathcona.

But, what if on that Heritage festival weekend, Edmontonians really got around? As part of a well-publicized food festival that got you and your family and friends to go to an African restaurant on 107 Ave, to a Mexican restaurant on 118 Ave, to the Indian restaurant on 116 St, and to restaurants from the northeast to Mill Woods? You know, all of those restaurants you drive by but don't stop at on the way to and from work and home?  A sort of Heritage foodie festival.

Yes, parking might be an issue in some neighbourhoods. And you may get temporarily lost trying to find some places in the labyrinth of Mill Woods.

But you might come out of it with a feeling that our city isn't as small as we make it. And there might be something learned from overcoming that tinge of discomfort that accompanies you as you walk, not into an open-air festival, but a business behind a door that serves its community.

Bistro India


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