Organizers look to expand Heritage Festival into a 'month of multiculturalism' 

Edmonton Heritage Festival is going online and has come up with a unique idea to replace the festival's popular food component. As many as 60 local multicultural restaurants will make up a list of places where people will be encouraged to dine for the month of August. Details will be made available on the festival's website on July 1.

Up to 60 multicultural restaurants around the city will make up the festival’s food component  

Crowds take in the entertainment at the 2018 Edmonton Heritage Festival. (Heritage Festival)

This year's Heritage Festival will have a different feel. 

The three-day festival is going online due to the pandemic and rules around social distancing.

"We have the big digital festival which is going to be humongous," said Jim Gibbon, the festival's executive director who says going digital will allow for more performers from around the world. 

It means no more long lineups for food tickets. 

"We're bringing in a bunch of local restaurants affiliated with a bunch of local cultural groups and we're building it into our website that people can go on and for the entire month of August they'll be able to get food from these local multicultural restaurants that maybe aren't as well known as some of the bigger restaurants in town," said Gibbon. 

Initially, the plan was to have festival-goers pay for food online and then pick it up through a drive-thru service. 

Organizers say they couldn't get government approval for that plan so it was dropped two weeks ago. 

This year, the Calgary Stampede plans to offer a drive-thru pancake breakfast, food truck drive-thru and mini doughnuts sales.

The Heritage Festival had considered a similar option, but organizers say they had to abandon that plan. 

"In a lot of ways we're happy that Calgary got approved for this because it now means ours, which is through restaurants, it guarantees we're able to go through with that one," said Gibbon. 

In an emailed statement to CBC, Tom McMillan with Alberta Health acknowledged how organizing events during the pandemic has been challenging. 

"The pandemic is unprecedented, and we know that many businesses and even organizers have been severely impacted," he said.

"Some organizers who previously cancelled events have been able to quickly adapt to these requirements, including shifting to smaller outings in the coming weeks and months, while some are not."   

Gibbon says additional details about which restaurants will be participating will be made available on July 1, along with more details about the festival.