August 7, 2017 1:14 pm
Updated: August 9, 2017 7:38 pm

Heritage Festival smashes attendance record on Sunday

WATCH ABOVE: Big crowds at Heritage Festival on Sunday meant huge lines for busses picking up and dropping off visitors.

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*EDITOR’S NOTE: The festival initially estimated about 370,000 attended Sunday’s event but on Wednesday updated its numbers to approximately 350,000.

Organizers said Sunday’s attendance numbers at the Servus Heritage Festival in Edmonton “exceeds all expectations.”

More than 350,000 people flocked to the food and culture festival in Hawrelak Park on Aug. 6, first estimates show.

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READ MORE: Celebration of culture and global fare at Edmonton Heritage Festival

“We are absolutely delighted to announce that we broke our one-day attendance record for the festival,” executive director Jim Gibbon said. “I think everyone came down on the Sunday when they knew it would be a very nice day.”

“It was a record for a single day by a longshot,” he said. “It was pretty close to twice any of our single days previously. It was a pretty big jump.”

The festival was packed with excitement as well. On Saturday, it hosted a wedding and on Sunday, it nearly hosted a birth.

“So many people came out to this,” Gibbon said. “We had a wedding, we almost had a baby onsite yesterday. I think they made it to the hospital… We’re just so lucky to be part of something so wonderful.”

Alberta Health Services confirmed EMS helped a woman reportedly in labour at the park gates. She declined being taken to hospital by ambulance but was given a ride on a golf cart up the hill on Groat Road to the traffic circle to meet up with her family who drove her to the hospital.

A large number of guests used Edmonton Transit’s park-and-ride service on Sunday. That caused some transit delays on Groat Road.

City officials said charter buses were backed up to 87 Avenue, as bus drivers slowly made their way to and from the park.

Gibbon said he heard a few complaints about transportation on social media.

“The last thing we want is for people to say we had a difficulty with anything.

“We’re so lucky to work with the city — the guys and girls with ETS are just amazing. We’ll work together, we’ll find ways to smooth it out for next time.”

READ MORE: Passengers stuck waiting hours on Heritage Festival buses

On Sunday, more seating and garbage cans were added to meet the larger crowds.

“We were a little bit overwhelmed,” Gibbon said on Monday. “But, if you look around, all the garbages have been picked up, we brought in double crews last night, probably 40 or 50 new garbage cans around the site, lots of extra people doing pick up and clean up.”

Saturday’s attendance numbers were similar to last year’s. The second day of the three-day festival welcomed about 75,000 people, mainly due to the mid-afternoon rain, organizers said.

Last year, over the course of the entire three-day event, attendance reached approximately 300,000.

The mandate of the Edmonton Heritage Festival is to promote public awareness and understanding of cultural diversity.

Watch below: As people head down to fill their bellies at the Heritage Festival, the Edmonton Food Bank is also hoping they’ll fill their donation boxes. As Kendra Slugoski reports, demand is at a record high.

It is also the largest fundraiser of the year for the Edmonton Food Bank.

READ MORE: Edmonton Food Bank ‘cautiously optimistic’ about donations coming in at Heritage Festival 

The food bank’s goal during Heritage Festival is to raise 50,000 kilograms of food. On Monday, the organization said it had collected 30,000 kilograms of food, reaching 60 per cent of its goal.

On Sunday, 14,000 kilograms of food was collected, marking a single-day record for the food bank.

READ MORE: Edmonton Food Bank looks to Heritage Festival to fill bare shelves, empty stomachs

“The number of people turning to the food bank is staggering,” said executive director Marjorie Bencz. “The Servus Heritage Festival is our single-largest food drive and key at restocking our shelves.

“People may support our work at the festival or throughout this week by dropping off non-perishable food donations at any major grocery store or fire station.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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