NP-UN Western Bureau.
Edmonton’s inaugural UFest celebration exceeded organizer’s expectations, opening the door for an annual event.
Although organizers had projected a turnout of 25,000 in their promotional literature, actual turnout exceeded 35,000 for the two-day event, held May 25-26 at the city’s Borden Park.
“It was an overwhelming success without question,” Festival Committee President Daria Luciw told New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
On Saturday attendance was so large that lineups for food or for the Beer Garden could last for more than an hour and one food vendor ran out at 6:30 pm.
“No one anticipated that the numbers would be so great,” she said.
Edmonton, which has the largest population of Canadians of Ukrainian descent in the country, does not have its own annual festival although two rural communities close to the city hold large festivals each year, the Ukrainian Pavilion at the city’s Heritage Days is one of the most popular, and several summer events are held at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village 50 kilometres east of the city.
Nevertheless, a dedicated group decided the city itself needed a major annual event. Two years ago they registered the Edmonton Ukrainian Festival Society, an independent body which is open to anyone who wants to be involved.
“Our vision is to offer the largest celebration of Ukrainian spirit in Alberta – showcasing the best of Ukrainian arts and culture, thereby strengthening the multicultural fabric of this province and of Canada,” states UFest’s website.
Luciw said the festival group reflects a broad spectrum of the Ukrainian society, not just the organized community but also people who aren’t active elsewhere. “This was something that captured their imagination.”
The free festival featured two main stages with 15 hours of ongoing musical and dance performers, beer gardens, Ukrainian food vendors, arts, crafts and merchandise vendors, displays, buskers, a coffee tent and more.
Among the performers was Marina Tymofichuk from Chernivtsi, Ukraine, who was sponsored by Marlene and Ben Borys of Sherwood Park.
Alberta performers included: Alicia Slusarchuk – Tsymbaly soloist; Edmonton School of Ukrainian Dance; Marango Pie Band; Vohon Ukrainian Dancers; Andrij Hornjatkevyč – Bandura soloist; Athabasca Ukrainian Folk Dance Club; Steppe Band; Ukrainian Male Chorus of Edmonton; Volya Ukrainian Dancers; Alberta Zirka Ukrainian Performers; Athabasca Ukrainian Dancers; Zabava u Koli Band; Viter Ukrainian Dancers and Folk Choir; Euphoria Band; St. Martin Ukrainian Dance Academy; Veselka Ukrainian Dancers; Diamonds Band; ZemlIa Vocal Trio; Polka Ramblers Band; Verkhovyna Ukrainian Choir; Iryna Kalinovych – Bandura soloist; St. Nicholas Mandolin Ensemble; Dunai Ukrainian Dancers; Verkhovyna School of Ukrainian Dance; UB Band; Shumka School of Dance; Mezzo-Soprano Stephania Romaniuk; Mashyna Band; Parkland Ukrainian Dancers; Tryzub Ukrainian Dance Ensemble; Trembita Band; Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Company; Millenia Band and Ukrainian Shumka Dancers.
Saturday night also featured the UFest After Dark Zabava with performances by Millenia and Trembita bands.
MC duties were shared by: Steven & Annalise Chwok, Slavko Nohas, Mara Palahniuk, Olesia Markevych, Katrusia Pohoreski and Adrian Warchola.
Festival Opening Ceremonies.
Among the VIPs attending the event were: Former Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach; Members of Parliament: Representing Edmonton Strathcona – Linda Duncan; Representing Edmonton Griesbach – Kerry Diotte; Representing St. Albert – Edmonton – Mike Cooper; Members of the Alberta Legislative Assembly: Representing Edmonton Highlands-Norwood – Brian Mason, Government House Leader; Representing Edmonton Decore – Chris Nielsen; Representing Fort Saskatchewan – Vegreville -Jessica Littlewood; City of Edmonton Councillors: Representing Ward 1 – Andrew Knack; Representing Ward 3 – Jon Dziadyk; Special Guests: Representing the Taras Shevchenko Foundation – Andrij Hladyshevsky; Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta Provincial Council President Olesia Luciw Andryjowycz; UCC Edmonton President Orysia Boychuk; Former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Gene Zwozdesky and Former MLA Janice Sarich.