Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Heritage Festival at Hawrelak Park

This past long weekend much of Edmonton made it out to Hawrelak Park for the annual three-day Heritage Festival, now in its 40th year. Founded to celebrate Alberta's cultural heritage and diversity, the festival features food, art, and entertainment from countries around the globe. This year's festival featured 64 pavilions representing 85 cultures (and I'd thought Epcot was diverse!). The best thing was that there was no hokeyness; each pavilion was run by Edmontonians of its heritage, who took much pride in representing their culture authentically.
I missed the festival last year, so was looking forward to heading over with friends to check it out this past Saturday. Fortunately a rainy afternoon turned into the nicest 25 °C evening and we made our way on foot to Hawrelak Park, a huge park in the North Saskatchewan River Valley. The festival was bustling with people of all ages and backgrounds -- there must have been thousands there (a third of a million attended last year!).
heritage festival edmonton 2015
heritage festival edmonton 2015
We passed Arabian dancers, a Viking ship, matryoshka dolls, and a South American guitar band. There was really so much to see -- and all for free, if you didn't buy food tickets. We did and it was definitely worth it -- especially because we split everything four ways to try four times as much :) While the Chinese, Thai, and Indian foods all looked delicious, we tried to go for things we'd never heard of (if we couldn't pronounce it, we bought it). Here's what we all tried:

From Serbia we started with raznjici, a marinated BBQ'd pork skewer with green peppers and onions. It was uniquely spiced and tasty.
raznjici serbia

Also from Serbia we got chevapi, meatballs with bread -- juicy and delicious!
chevapi serbia

Over at the Nicaragua pavilion we tried a nacatamale, chicken cooked with corn flour, wrapped in a banana leaf. It was much tastier than it sounds and also contained (unadvertised) chickpeas.
nacatamale nicaragua

Also from Nicaragua and less tasty than the nacatamale was chanco con yuca, boiled cassava root with stewed pork ribs, topped with cabbage salad. It was interesting to try cassava, which I later learned is tapioca root -- and apparently contains enough cyanide to kill you if not properly cooked. Boiled, I thought it resembled a cauliflower stem in both texture and taste.
chanco con yuca nicaragua
and this is cassava

From Eritrea (which I learned last month, after meeting a patient from there, is just north of Ethiopia) we sampled two stews served with injera (the flatbread that I'd first tried at Langano Skies): tzebhi zigni, stewed meat in pepper sauce; and timtmo, lentils with onions, peppers, and spices. Both were so flavourful and spicy -- probably my favourite dishes of the day!
tzebhi zigni eritrea
timtmo eritrea

The Arab countries collectively offered an extensive menu; we went for a combo plate with a sirloin shish kabob, fattouch salad, hummus, and a pita. A little less unique than the rest of our menu, but no less delicious.
arab heritage festival
arab heritage festival edmonton
eaten whilst watching some pretty energetic Arabian dancing

Drinkwise, we tried mango juice from Peru (the one thing I'm realizing I didn't photograph...because I was too busy trying on all of their finger puppets)
peru heritage festival edmonton
and kvas, a malt beverage from Russia. The kvas tasted yeasty and was not unpleasant. (Sorry, it's harder than I'd thought to describe tastes -- props to food bloggers who know all the right adjectives!)
kvas heritage festival

Seeing churros at several pavilions, we traded tickets for oreo ones at Guatamala. I'd never tried a churro before and am a new fan -- who doesn't like chewy stick-shaped (oreo-flavoured!) doughnuts?
churros guatamala

Finally, we used our last tickets on lokma tatlisi, Turkish mini doughnuts coated in syrup and icing sugar. Crustier and less cake-like than your honey-glazed Tim's doughnut, they reminded me of those long Chinese doughnuts. Though a little too oily for my liking (I'm a loyal fan of cinnamon-sugar mini doughnuts), there were worse ways we could have capped off our food sampling.
turkish lokma tatlisi

Although I haven't been to too many of Edmonton's festivals (yet!), I'm sure that the Heritage Festival will be one of my favourites. I think it'd be hard to beat its summer festival vibe, venue, or what it stands for (discrediting the Albertan redneck stereotype). Overall, it was one of the best things I've seen in Edmonton so far!
heritage festival 2015 edmonton
until next year
sunset edmonton
and we came over the rim of the valley just as the sun was setting (9:28 pm!)


  1. Reading this made me wish I could attend such a festival! You didn't even need fancy food adjectives to convey how cool it was :)
    My small town has a heritage festival that is probably the most "white farmer" event the county has all year...experiencing all the bits and pieces of culture looks like so much fun! It also reminds me a bit of my college culture fest, which is a lot smaller but similar with food and dancing! :)

    1. Your college sounds awesome! Man I wish mine had had a culture fest. Learning about other places is the best! I realize that I'm pretty lucky to live in such a multicultural city...but sometimes I think it'd be nice to give up city life to live in a small town like yours (despite its white farmer festival :D).

  2. I really like your post about the Heritage Festival! :)
    It was my first festival in Edmonton (and in Canada) when I was here as a tourist 6 years ago! And now it's one of my favourite festivals ever since I moved here! :)
    Hehe funny that you tried kvass! :D If you ever have a chance, try "real kvass"! It is way better than bottled ones (can't even compare)! Usually sold on tap on streets or restaurants in Eastern Europe and Russia!
    Kvass is one of my favourite drinks!
    Awesome pictures!
    Thanks! :)

    1. Oh that's special that you have memories from visiting here and then ended up moving! Haha I had no concept of what kvass was and it tasted so different from what I'd expected (I figured it'd taste like a soft drink...because that's what it sort of looked like). I'll definitely have to try the real version if I ever get the chance! Thanks for the sweet comment :)

    2. Hehe that’s so funny! :D You are right, kvass is kind of a soft drink in Eastern Europe (how root beer is here = no offence I think it's quite disgusting! o_O )
      It's always so interesting to spy people's reactions when they taste a different culture's food (especially when they are not used to them) :)


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