Summer is the time for weddings. Summer is the time for festivals and food. Summer is the time for dancing and joy. The Ukrainian Pavilion at the Heritage Festival in Edmonton, Alberta captured the spirit of summer – and also first place in the Arts and Culture category, a stunning achievement under any circumstances but especially significant this year because the number of countries represented at the Edmonton Heritage Festival, held in early August, was expanded to 100.
The award-winning tent was beautiful. The centerpiece of the Arts and Crafts tent was a large round table featuring the korovai, a tradition wedding bread with elaborate decorations. Other traditional ritual breads were also part of the display: kolachi associated with the Christmas season and also with the commemoration of ancestors, paskas for Easter, breads for daily use. Around the sides of the tent, volunteers demonstrated the construction of dolls made of straw and the writing of pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs. There were displays describing the steps of the wedding and also calendar rituals connected to the breads. The organizations that helped create the displays included Ukrainian Women’s Organization of Canada, the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada Museum, Edmonton Eparchy, and the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, Alberta Branch. Individual volunteers were also crucial to the pavilion’s success.
To one side of the pavilion with Ukrainian arts and crafts was a stage where acts appeared every hour on the hour. The acts included music and dance and a beautiful fashion show. The music catered to all tastes, from traditional, to classical, to modern. Three dance groups participated with KaRAR Performing Arts, managed by Tymothy Jaddock, participating in Heritage Days for the third year. Three years of participation and service also characterized the contribution of Lyudmila Shefel who brought her striking collection of traditional Ukrainian costumes and dressed models in them for the show. The traditional fashion show picked up the wedding theme found in the arts and crafts tent and the models acted out the arrival of the matchmaker and then the dressing of a bride for her wedding day. A modern fashion show followed the traditional one. For those into the athletic side of Ukrainian culture, there was an arm-wrestling demonstration organized by Jason Tibok.
Interaction with festival-goers was very much a theme of the 2018 Ukrainian Pavilion. In the Arts and Crafts tent, attendees could try their hand at straw work and braiding straw figures. On stage, audience could sing along and they could have their pictures taken with fashion models and other performers. A special treat was a Ukrainian Dance Workshop run by Myroslava Oksentiuk. Ukrainian dancers came down off the stage, into the audience, and led them through a number of dances.
For many people who attend the Edmonton Heritage Festival, food is a big attraction, and the Ukrainian pavilion did not disappoint in that regard. Preliminary statistics show sales of 37,000 pyrohy and 40 gallons of borshch, all accompanied with the usual sour cream, sausage and onions. A special treat this year was the addition of blueberry pyrohy. What better way to capture the spirit of a Ukrainian summer than pyrohy filled with blueberries?
All of this was made possible by our many dedicated volunteers. Special recognition must go to those who worked behind the scenes, those who were not visible on stage or making presentations in the Arts and Crafts pavilion. We are aware of 177 shifts of 5.5 hours of work each, or approximately 1000 hours of donated labor. The behind-the-scenes workers set up the tent and took it down at the conclusion of the festival. They set up the displays, the stage, and the refrigeration truck. Heroic efforts went into manning the kitchen. Cooking that much food over three very hot and sunny days takes true dedication.
We the participants of this year’s festival welcome all members of the Ukrainian community (and people who are not members – we had several such volunteers this year) to join us in 2019. We hope to make the Ukrainian Pavilion an even greater success.
Our Pavilion is one of the most popular in the Festival. People enjoy eating our delicious Ukrainian traditional food, watching our unique traditional performances, and buy some Ukrainian souvenirs. Every year, we are doing our best to do better than the previous year. Many Ukrainian and local celebrities and politicians come to visit our Pavilion every year.
Check out these photos from the Ukrainian Pavilion of last year’s Heritage Festival and make sure to visit our Pavilion this year at lot#3