Heritage Festival Returns

'We're Still a City of Champions' Says Jim Gibbon of Heritage Festival

By Marisa Peters

Gibbon says that Heritage Festival has changed his life in many ways.

“Ten years ago, I wasn’t aware of the subtle racism, the little things that happen every day in this city,” something he’s much more aware of now.

On the festival website’s landing page, a statistic from a July 2020 IPSOS REED poll says “The majority (60 per cent) of Canadians see racism as a serious problem in Canada today. Nearly a third of Canadians say they have personally experienced racism in the past year.”

“The most important part of Heritage Fest, if you look at the way it works, from pavilion to pavilion, you learn how we’re all so different and we’re all very much the same. People just want to raise their kids in peace and safety like everybody else.”

He adds, “Taking the unknown other and turning them into a familiarity changes everything in your world.”

One of the mandates for Heritage Festival is to preserve diversity. This is important to Gibbon who says he wouldn’t want to live in a melting pot society where everyone is expected to blend in.

“I want people four or five generations down to be celebrating, to remember their ancestors and their ancestral stories.”

Which is why Gibbon believes amplifying and protecting Heritage Festival is important for the city.

In 2019, Heritage Festival received $9,000 in funding to advertise in Calgary which increased out of town visitors from 9 per cent to 16 per cent. This increased visitors by thousands, not only bringing people to the event itself but also “putting heads in beds”, which is great for Edmonton tourism.

In 2017, Heritage Festival hit a record of 460,000 visitors. With more funding and advertising, Gibbon is hoping to see numbers like that return in the coming years.

Heritage Festival 2022 runs from July 30 to August 1 at Hawrelak Park.