Heritage Day reflects Alberta
Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 06:00 am
A provincial government in 1974 that seemed to have an impressive precognitive power introduced “Heritage Day.”
Introduced by the Peter Lougheed government, Heritage Day (a civic holiday on the first Monday of August) was set aside by the provincial government to give Albertans a day to reflect on and celebrate the cultural heritage of the province. Heritage Day-type activities have subsequently caught on across the country, but the best of them is still here in Alberta.
Two years after Heritage Day was introduced, the Edmonton Heritage Festival, now called the Servus Heritage Festival, was born. It was a multi-day party that featured the music, the dance and the food of the people that make this province special and is certainly one of the preeminent events of the weekend.
This year’s festival, the 39th annual at Hawrelak Park, has 60 booths featuring 85 different communities and cultures from around the world that are now part of Alberta. The festival’s participants include, of course, aboriginals, who were the first Albertans. Also included are Afghanistan, Chile, Fiji, Germany, Kenya, Korea, Poland, Romania, Scandinavia, Taiwan, Viet Nam and many, many more. Visitors will learn about dancing, crafts, clothing and, of course, food from all of the participating cultures.
Since there is no public parking at Hawrelak Park during the festival, Edmonton Transit is offering a shuttle service. However, St. Albertans, if you want to attend, you’ll have to drive into the city, park and then take transit or take transfer busing. It’s a shame that the City of St. Albert doesn’t offer a shuttle service directly to the festival, as is offered in other capital region municipalities.
The opportunity to attend a multi-cultural celebration like this is what Heritage Day weekend is all about, and prompts one to think about an old saying: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Alberta is experiencing immigration unlike anything it’s ever seen, as enthusiastic newcomers flock here for a better life.
It actually hearkens back to well over 100 years ago when other groups of immigrants were coming to Alberta. Pioneers came to Alberta from Europe, Asia and the rest of the world to find a new beginning and a better life for themselves and their families.
Incidentally, this Heritage Day weekend also marks the 100th anniversary of Canada entering The Great War (First World War), where Canadians, and Albertans especially, came of age through sacrifice.
The Heritage Festival reminds us that Alberta is not the homogenous, straight-off-the-farm society it once was. Alberta continues to grow in its diversity. Newcomers bring new energy, new ideas, and new cultures – all of which add to a rich and vibrant province. Alberta’s newcomers will ensure the provincial motto remains relevant, “Fortis et liber – Strong and free.”