SOURCE: EDMONTON JOURNAL
“With the new museum and Ice District about to open, we all agree our Chinatown is really sad,” said Shannon Berry, co-organizer of YEG Chinatown Events, a new initiative.
“We don’t want people coming out of the Ice District into Chinatown and having the experience that is there right now and nobody really knowing what goes on in Chinatown. There’s so many really cool things that happen there.”
Berry, owner of promotions company The Promo Syndicate, has partnered with marketing company Diversus Media Group to work with the Edmonton Chinatown Business Revitalization Zone to polish the public perception of the neighbourhood and to spruce it up physically.
“I have a lot of friends that won’t go into Chinatown because it’s very dimly lit and it hasn’t been well-kept over the years,” Berry said. “We would like to start bringing people that have either forgotten about Chinatown, or that don’t even know about Chinatown, into the area and show them what it has to offer, helping to support the businesses.
The campaign’s kickoff event will be a 10-course meal featuring authentic, traditional dishes, not found on typical Chinese restaurant menus, at the Sai Woo Restaurant. The June 15 event will be hosted by local author and playwright Marty Chan.
The group plans to hold other awareness-building functions like a mid-autumn festival, Lunar New Year celebration and events highlighting retail and food in Chinatown. They also want to begin fundraising for money to clean up the district, renovate storefronts and add amenities such as strings of colourful Chinese-style lanterns above the streets. The goal is to turn the community into a destination for tourists and locals.
“It’s going to be beautiful. There’s beautiful lamp posts down there already, but nobody notices them. We’ll paint them, clean them up and put up the lanterns. We’ll get those storefronts painted and freshened up.”
Edmonton’s Chinatown lags behind similar communities in Vancouver, Calgary and other parts of Canada in making a positive impression, Berry said.
“A lot of population just doesn’t know what’s down there. What they look at is the transient population and it doesn’t look as clean as other areas. … All you ever hear about Chinatown anymore now is the bad stuff, like this restaurant got shut down for infractions. They’re not the only restaurants getting in trouble, but they’re the only ones we hear about.”
Coincidentally, an international conference on the future of North American Chinatowns takes place this weekend at the University of Alberta. It’s organized by the Chinese Benevolent Association of Edmonton, the U of A Faculty of Education and Edmonton Chinese Community Organizations.