As COVID-19 restrictions loosen, Taste of Edmonton and Heritage Festival are planning to host their events this summer, while Pride is opting to stay virtual.
On its website, Edmonton Heritage Festival organizers say: “Be ready. We are currently planning a fully functioning festival.”
Jim Gibbon, executive director of the Edmonton Heritage Festival, says there will be fewer tents and smaller crowds this year but planning is underway for the three-day festival, which runs July 31 to Aug. 2 in Hawrelak Park.
“Every pavilion only gets two tents this year,” Gibbon said. “By pulling out that third tent, it opens a space in between the two buildings up to 10 metres, which is great.
“We’re keeping the numbers down to where we can make it a nice straight walk. People can stay out of each other’s way.”
He said the festival will limit capacity to where it was about seven years ago.
“We can keep it down to the point where people have a lot more space … And that’s required in line and when you’re walking around.
“There will definitely be far fewer tents, but roughly the same number of pavilions that there was six or seven years ago,” Gibbons said.
He said the festival organizers have been working closely with Alberta Health Services and provincial health authorities on what steps are needed to ensure the event can operate safely. Measures include mandatory masks except for when eating, physically distanced lines, distanced eating spaces, contactless payment and a new site layout.
“The biggest issue was on site, how do you eat safely?”
“So part of our plan is we have a couple of summer students with red grass paint that go out and measure every five metres and they’re drawing that three-metre circle on the grass. So there’s going to be hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these safe eating pods out on the grass that will keep people five metres apart.”
Gibbons thought Premier Jason Kenney’s method of using events to motivate people to get vaccinated was smart.
“I have to applaud the premier because I thought what he did was very creative. He basically said to people: ‘In case there’s any reluctance to go get your shots, because then we can open K-Days and then we can open Stampede and things.’
“I thought it was a good way to sort of give people a little kick to get them out there to get their shots.”
“And that’s really what it comes down to. If nobody gets their shots, there’s no events, right? So it’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Taste of Edmonton is scheduled to run July 22 to Aug. 1 in Churchill Square.
The festival’s website says it’s currently accepting restaurant, entertainment and volunteer applications. Its Twitter page is also seeking food truck submissions.
Taste of Edmonton and the Heritage Festival have been comparing notes, sharing support and tips, according to Gibbon.
One festival that plans to stay virtual this year is Pride, which comes earlier in the summer — kicking off June 4.
While the in-person gatherings will be cancelled for a second year due to the pandemic, the Pride Centre of Edmonton has a lineup of virtual events.
Pride month events and activities include a printmaking workshop, an art panel in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Alberta, Queer Prom and a virtual drag night.
“We know many folks in our community are missing the Pride Parade but there are plenty of other ways we can celebrate, and that celebration is never restricted to a single month,” PCE executive director Dawn Carter said.
“Our responsibility is ensuring 2SLGBTQIA+ folks of all ages across the city have access to resources, support and genuine human connection all year-round.”
Key PCE services are available by phone, video or pre-booked drop-ins at no cost, including counselling and newcomer support.