Heritage Festival 2019 adds six new pavilions, including Palestine

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One of the world’s largest cultural festivals walked the walk this weekend as six new pavilions joined the Edmonton Heritage Festival, including the first for Palestine.

This year, the festival in Hawrelak Park featured 73 pavilions representing 100 cultures and countries. 

Sandwiched between Ukraine and Jamaica, Palestine had a complete set up with an outdoor stage for performances, arts and crafts inside the tent and food counter serving falafel, hummus and nammorah. 

Mousa Qas Qas, vice-president of the Alberta chapter of the Canada Palestine Cultural Association, said after applying and being rejected three years in a row they were ecstatic to have their own pavilion. A wrap up of the 2019 Edmonton Heritage Festival. 1:16

“It really means a lot to us, especially as Palestinians, with what we’re going through on the world stage as well,” he told CBC News on Monday. “It’s really, really important to have our own tent and share our rich diverse culture with Edmontonians and the world.” 

Their acceptance into the multicultural bonanza comes one year after the group pondered filing a human rights complaint against the festival, alleging discrimination.

Qas Qas said in past years, people told them to join the pan-Arab tent, where several Arabic cultures feature their art, food and dance.

He said having their own Palestinian tent is a symbol of their hard-earned independence. 

“For us it’s a big deal, because we’ve been told this our whole lives, ‘There’s Arab countries you can go to, go there,’ ” he said. “No, why do we have to move and no one else does, right? That’s how we look at it.” 

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Mousa Qas Qas, vice-president of the Alberta chapter of the Canada Palestine Cultural Association, invites the crowd to join the dancers in front of the stage. (Manuel Carrillos)

Jim Gibbon, executive director of the Heritage Festival, said it was a matter of available openings. In previous years, more groups were applying for pavilions and there were a limited number of spots. 

“We have eleven founding groups that always get in, and then if you’ve been here five years you always get in,” Gibbon said. “Everything came together this year and they got in. And it’s great.”

Mali, Guinea, Nashville, Tenn., and a tent called Newcomers, run by the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, joined the freshmen group this year with cultural tents. 

A Caribbean tent, set up as a kind of market, featured food and artwork from Cuba, Barbados, Dominica and Grenada. 

The Palestinians kicked off their inaugural year in style, taking first place in the dance performance competition.

The festival is also a major annual fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank.

The goal was to collect cash and 50,000 kilograms of food.

Spokesperson Tamisan Bencz-Knight said Monday they were about halfway to that goal. The food drive continues until Friday. 

People can drop off non-perishable items or cash at fire halls and grocery stores.



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