Katherine Gilks, Projects Coordinator

This year, we launched our first Virtual Heritage Fair!

One of the questions that I have been asked is “Why is heritage important at this time?” In this time of crisis and uncertainty, why launch a contest? Why not just let it be cancelled?

Heritage and culture are what guide us through tough times, for better or for worse. Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion of what our ancestors survived, how things were in the past, how we might change in the future, etc. Knowing that crises of the past eventually ended provides us with hope. Learning about how people have overcome challenges inspires us to rise to the current challenge of day-to-day living in uncertainty.

When we decided to expand our Virtual Heritage Fair province-wide and open it up to students who had not initially been planning a project, one of the suggestions that I had for students was for them to do a family history project. During this time of physical isolation, maintaining connection with friends and relatives has been of vital importance. Having the chance to talk to relatives about family history is a way to connect with them in the present. While I made this suggestion in the context of the Heritage Fair, it is a great suggestion for anyone of any age. Especially as many of us have had our summer plans altered, now might be a great time to dig out family history, call up our relatives, and possibly visit cemeteries or homestead sites (practicing proper safety, of course).

Heritage and culture are also keeping our spirits up in other ways. Many Heritage Fairs projects are about sports or art. While sports have been postponed or cancelled for this year, learning about them reminds us of happier times and that they will be back again. We will also have music and tourism again.

The various projects in our Virtual Heritage Fair, all 290 of them, show off Canadian heritage and culture in some way. I am always amazed every year at the topics that the students research. I learn something new every year and 2020 has been no exception. We have everything from aspects of farm life to sports to historical events to wild animals. And, of course, we have several projects on the current COVID-19 pandemic. There are many family history projects: some are about ancestors who were famous and others are about ordinary Canadians whom most of us would have never otherwise heard about.

Thank you to all of the students, parents, teachers, sponsors, and judges for making this contest a reality this year! Thank you to everyone who worked behind the scenes on getting the website upgraded as well.

We hope that everyone enjoys the projects!