The Edmonton Heritage Festival has announced the cancellation of its 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement came Friday morning, one day after Alberta’s chief medical officer of health announced the current public health orders restricting gatherings of more than 15 people will be in place through the summer.
“We regret not being able to join together, as in the past, to participate in a collective celebration of cultural diversity, but we recognize the challenges we are all dealing with at this time; and large crowds are neither appropriate nor acceptable during the pandemic,” executive director Jim Gibbon said.
“A lot of people call it a food festival — it’s not. It’s a festival that shares the message of multiculturalism with people all over the world. We are the world’s largest multiculturalism festival… You can’t just walk away from that.”
The festival is a tradition over the August long weekend in Edmonton. This year would have been the 47th year for the festival.
“The year of the tornado — I think that was ’87 — that was the Friday night before the festival,” Gibbon said. “So they shut down the Saturday and they just basically wiped everything out and they still went Sunday and Monday. This festival has gone ahead through a tornado, so this year is sort of a first.”
Instead of celebrating the annual festival at Hawrelak Park, Heritage Festival said it will move to offer a virtual festival.
“It’s sad, but we can still do the virtual part 100 per cent for sure and then we’re looking at some other options as well.”
He said the virtual festival will hopefully offer patrons the chance to order food from the vendors online for pickup and delivery. More details on the virtual festival will be released in the coming weeks.
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“We’re all flying by the seat of our pants right now, so as things change we are adapting and we are trying to come up with a way to help the local multicultural groups get their food out to Edmontonians. But we would like to be able to do it — we will only do it — if we can do it in a very, very safe manner and we can do it with the full cooperation of Alberta Health Services.”
The on-site festival was scheduled form Aug. 1 – 3.