Over 51,000 people attended the Second Annual UFest Edmonton Ukrainian Festival, held at that city’s Borden Park, May 25-26.
“Despite a bit of a wetter start on Friday, attendance was up significantly on Saturday resulting in a great overall attendance figure. More media attention and building on the great attendance we had in year one really helped build this year’s crowd,” explained Daria Luciw, Chair of the Edmonton Ukrainian Festivals Society.
“We are very pleased with this year’s UFest. We intend to present UFest annually and the turn out along with the great support of volunteers is helping us develop a superb foundation for the event. There are still many ideas for how to grow UFest and clearly the Ukrainian community as well as the broader Edmonton community have a desire to see our festival succeed and they support us by coming out in great numbers. We cannot say enough about the 200+ volunteers who signed up to work shifts from 4 to 16 hours over the 2 days, and many worked even more as they helped with set up and clean up. We had a waiting list of performers and vendors, and very positive commentary from all involved. We are always looking to adjust and change as needed but so far it seems we have a winning formula,” she added.
A new feature of this year’s UFest was the Kozak Kids Zone where a variety of sport, craft and fun activities were organized for the two days and the patient volunteers were kept busy the entire time.
“We noticed the number of families who had attended the first year and anticipated this would be the same again and wanted to ensure the kids had some variety in activities,” said Luciw.
“We changed our site layout this year to accommodate a larger vendor village. We had 20 vendor tents and a waiting list of others who were hoping to also have a spot. The response to this component has been positive and our committee worked hard to meet the needs of the various retailers. In addition, we had 16 community organizations who booked space in our community tent and that too was oversubscribed with more groups wanting to join us than we could accommodate. Both of these areas will be a regular part of UFest,” she added.
The UFest After Dark Zabava proved to be so successful the first year, that organizers added a band for Friday evening, made this area larger and doubled the licensed capacity to 1,000 people.
Another new feature was the photo booth where festival goers could don a wreath and have their photo taken as a keepsake.
Other features included a Vendor Village, Food Fair, Kava Kafe, Workshops and a Community Pavilion.
Special Guests this year were the Desna Ukrainian Dancers from Toronto.
“Desna has a long history in Toronto and our audience was very appreciative to see this group which has not had much opportunity to come out west. They looked after their own arrangements because being here was important to them and they were great! We have been approached by many groups regionally, nationally and internationally but are not in a position yet to pay some of the fees which were quoted to us. We think it is important to support our local groups first and foremost and were pleased to provide some nominal honouraria for all performers this year. Once we can ensure we can support our local performers, we will continue to expand and look for other opportunities to bring new artists to Edmonton,” said Luciw.
More than 30 Ukrainian entertainers took part at this year’s festival, including live bands, local choirs, tsymbaly soloists, buskers and cultural dancers.
Among them: Bands: Accordion Society, Chaika Ensemble, Diamonds Band, Euphoria Band, Marango Pie, Mashyna, Millenia, Polka Ramblers, Steppe, Trembita, UB; Zabava U Koli; Choirs: Ukrainian Male Chorus, Verkhovyna Choir, Viter; Tsymbaly Soloists: Alicia Slusarchuk, Mitchell Palahniuk; Dancers: Ardrossan Yatran, Cheremosh School, Cheremosh, Dunai Dancers, Edmonton School Of Ukrainian Dance, Hopakers, Koperoush, Shumka, Shumka School Of Dance, St. Albert Ukrainian Dancers, St. Basil’s Ukrainian Dancers, St. Paul Desna Dancers, Studia Shumka, Veeteretz, Veselka, Viter, Vohon, Volya School Of Dance and Volya.
MCs included: Olesia Markevych & Andriy Hladyshevsky; Mara Palahniuk & Annalise Chwok; Mykola Bilash; Adrian Warchola & Marissa Karpiak; Steven Chwok & Jackie Rae Greening.
Workshop instructors included: Borys Tarasenko, Kozak Platter Colouring Book; Elizabeth Holinaty, Weaving Demonstration and Lecture; Lyrissa Sheptak, Pysanky Writing; Joyce Sirski Howell, Ukrainian Bread Braiding; Myroslava Oksentiuk, Vytynanka (paper cutting) and Irene Topolnitsky, Wheat Weaving.