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Taste of Edmonton, Heritage Festival face financial hardship — one may call it quits for good

Taste of Edmonton, Heritage Festival face financial hardship – one may call it quits for good
WATCH ABOVE: The Taste of Edmonton and the Heritage Festival - two of the city's major summer festivals - are facing a cash crunch. With celebrations on hold due to the pandemic, at least one says they are on the verge of folding for good. Chris Chacon reports.

Two major festivals in Edmonton are facing a cash crunch. With celebrations on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least one group says it is on the verge of folding for good.

Taste of Edmonton is one of many events that have either cancelled or postponed because of the novel coronavirus.

“As a non-profit organization, all our resources come from the 10-day festival that we put on in the summer,” Taste of Edmonton general manager Donovan Vienneau said. “For us, there is a real potential that Taste of Edmonton won’t be coming back.”

Vienneau said his group didn’t qualify for much government help. Add in the loss of entry fees from restaurants and the event does not have enough money to cover operational costs and has laid off staff. That’s led to desperate measures.

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“So that’s why we have put together our charity donation fund online, and we’re looking for public support to help save the festival,” Vienneau said.

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In order to return next year, Vienneau said the event needs $100,000.

Taste of Edmonton is not the only festival strapped for cash. The Heritage Festival is also facing a few financial bumps and roadblocks.

“There’s no cash coming in. We have to find ways to survive to the next year to be able to put it on, but I think more importantly, we are a facilitator for these up to 100 cultural groups very year,”  said Jim Gibbon, the executive director of the Edmonton Heritage Festival.

Organizers tried to arrange a drive-thru festival for food pickup but were initially turned down by Alberta Health Services.

“We’ve been planning the event for about three months and we were told no,” Gibbon explained. “We cut off the event and two weeks later, after telling everyone it’s done, we got a call yesterday saying, ‘Oh, we’ve changed our mind [and] you can have the event now.”

The news was too late for them. A similar event being put on by the Calgary Stampede will go ahead.

Read more: Calgary Stampede announces 10 days of grab-and-go food events in July

“It’s literally exactly what we were doing, but you know what? For the Stampede — great for them,” Gibbon said.

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The Heritage Festival is planning an online only experience for the August long weekend.