Monday was the third and last day of Edmonton’s Heritage Festival. The weather was once again in our favour, so we rode our bikes and used the free bike parking at Hawrelak Park. I love seeing all the bikes lined up, it’s like a little taste of Amsterdam:
One spectacle that I don’t recall seeing in previous years, were the stilt-walkers. I’d like to say that maybe I’d missed them before, but they kind of stand out:
We purchased an additional 30 food tickets on the last day even though we both had a lot of tickets left over. But the plan was that we would splurge on some higher-ticket items, or things we wouldn’t have otherwise ordered. So the first thing Mark stopped for was the grilled goat meat from Kenya.
He didn’t get much for the 8 tickets it cost. When I asked him how it was, his response was, “ummm. Goaty.” Because there is no other answer really. So for him it was a fail, both in taste and price.
To cleanse the palate a bit, we aimed for the Nepal pavilion next and split a mango lassi, a yogurt-based drink. It seemed like a small serving for 5 tickets, as the container it was served in was like a solo cup cut in half. But it was actually very rich, and even split between the two of us, it was quite satisfying.
We were in earshot of the Aboriginal pavilion, where they were putting on their show, so I grabbed a few snaps while they performed their “straight dance,” one of the many forms of dances that may be performed at a Pow wow. It was really amazing to watch, and there was a bit of friendly competition going on. I loved how at the end of the performance the announcer quipped, “did you see me? Oh, I was amazing wasn’t I?” due to the heavy make-up they wore, making the dancers unrecognizable.
They put on one of the best shows by far, and although the announcer admitted that it’s impossible to impart their thousands of years of history and culture in a 20-minute show, I learn a little bit more every time I see them perform.
We didn’t do as much shopping this time as we normally do. Partly because most of the merchandise really doesn’t change, but also because we prefer to purchase items as souvenirs when we actually visit a country. The Heritage Festival does offer a wide variety of trinkets, take-home snacks, clothing and jewelry though.
Even drums, if you felt so inclined!
But again, we were here to sample the food. As the sun rose higher in the sky and we got sweatier, we opted for a cool snack. I headed straight for the Vietnam tent, where I purchased their three-color dessert, which I had been eyeing the day before. It consisted of red beans, green jelly bits, and lighter green jelly rectangles. There were also huge chunks of grated coconut in a creamy syrup. It took a long time to eat, it was a meal in itself. It was quite refreshing, but I have mixed feelings about putting beans in desserts. Kind of like ham and pineapple, it sort of goes together, but not really.
The previous day as we were walking by the Japan tent, Mark had spied something that was added to his “must-eat” list – they were offering a 40th Anniversary combo meal. So today was the day for us to splurge, as the combo meal cost 10 tickets. After Mark put in his order, our server held a box up high and told him, “if you pull out a white chip, you win a set of chopsticks!” So he reached in and sure enough, got a white poker chip. The chopsticks were prettily decorated with red and blue lines. A nice souvenir for the 40th Anniversary! The meal was quite generous too:
Starting with the ball in the upper left hand corner, that was an octopus dumpling. The large item next to it on the right was something called okonomiyaki. This is a vegetable-filled pancake, which had a nice flavour to it. Below that, tofu in sauce, edamame beans, and finally, deep fried chicken. This was especially delicious with the fresh lemon squeezed all over it. This meal was one of the highlights of the last day.
Speaking of the last day, there’s another reason to show up on the final day, and a bit closer to the 7pm closing time….discounts! No one wants to haul all that food and merch home! This is a mixed blessing of course, because suddenly your tickets go a little further, which is great, but it takes that much longer to use them up and you stuff yourself that much more to get your moneys’ worth.
Case in point, the Bosnia Herzegovina tent, where their stuffed peppers were normally 6 tickets. Today they were on sale for 4 tickets. And look how much food they gave us:
We have a feeling they were only doling out one pepper the first two days. Because dang, that’s a lot of food for only 6 tickets. They were also really, really good. Mildly spicy and warm, with a surprising amount of flavour, This was also a winner.
We also stopped at the Nicaragua tent to try their vigoron. This is boiled cassava root with cabbage and crunchy pork rindle. I wanted to like it, but it was rather bland and could have used some salsa or hot sauce. Again though, a very generous helping. Plus it was on sale from 7 tickets down to 4, which made the cola champagne pop essentially free since it was 3 tickets.
So, in the end, of the 61 pavilions that represented over 85 cultures from all over the world, we ate at 22 of them. Not bad. Next year we will try to aim for 10 a day. And try not to explode on the bike ride home.
One thing I would like to see from the pavilions in the future, is to have a certain minimum amount of historical, cultural and linguistic information set up about each country. The displays have always been inconsistent in this regard. Some are much better than others, namely the Arab and Israel pavilions, which both have great information on some of their mathematical, medical, agricultural and cultural contributions throughout history. But you can easily pop into some tents and come out still not knowing anything new about the country or region. But this is a small issue. They’ve been going strong for 40 years after all, with attendance going up steadily each year. So they must be doing something right.