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Heritage Days offers online performances, recipes and marketplace throughout August

The beloved Heritage Days is an August long weekend tradition for thousands. Now, performances, an artist marketplace and food takeaway can be had virtual-style all month long.
Heritage Fest continues through August as Multicultural Month, offering recipes, performances and links to restaurants offering traditional foods for takeout or delivery. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Heritage Days would normally be a fond memory come this week in August, but because of COVID-19 and this year's move to an online format during the August long weekend virtual event, the happy clash of cultures continues until the 31st, with Multicultural Month happenings.

Edmonton Heritage Festival executive director Jim Gibbon said the nature of the virtual event allows the festival to reach people far beyond Hawrelak Park, and for a longer period. Throughout the month, visitors to will see videos of entertainment, recipes (even some language lessons) from many of the cultural partner organizations that normally reach thousands each August at the in-person event.

"Our 47th annual event may be virtual, but we have hours of content on food and history, and performances from our local organizations. For many of these groups and cultural restaurants, they rely on Heritage Days to raise funds. We're trying to help them dig out from the impact of COVID-19 by offering a month of programming and a link for viewers to order food (and cultural goods) directly from 40 partner restaurants, without having to leave home," said Gibbon.

Fancy Thai food? Want to try Ethiopian, Lebanese or a Polish delight? The website links to a variety of restaurants and cuisines offering traditional favorites for takeout or delivery--no need for tickets and lineups at pavillions this year.

Gibbon said the silver lining for the online event is that people beyond Edmonton can experience the food and artists of various cultures. "We can expand the festival in different ways--create a virtual marketplace and introduce people to artists and restaurants they might not have known about before. Maybe they'll discover a new artist to follow, or favourite place for takeout going forward."

"We don't want this to be just a three-day event," he said. "We want to help keep some 70 multicultural groups afloat. Edmonton has such an amazing variety of local dancers and artists within these groups--it's important to us to help small organizations survive and thrive."

Heritage Days has always been the biggest fundraiser of the year for Edmonton's Food Bank too, last year bringing in over 44,000 kilograms of food and nearly $100,000 during the weekend event. Marjorie Bencz, executive director of Edmonton's Food Bank, said the food and monetary donations collected during Heritage Weekend "help keep our shelves full into the fall. Obviously 2020 is far from a regular year, but we've found new ways for Edmontonians to continue the tradition of helping," she said.

In-person donations are welcome at 11508- 120 St. NW, and online monetary donations are always welcome at Funds raised go toward the purchase of food in bulk, fuel, the fleet of trucks, keeping the facility running and to fund programs that assist people in the community. Until August 7, Ledcor is doubling online donations up to $90,000 as part of the Heritage Food Drive.