GlobalFest is known for celebrating the diversity and multiculturalism of Calgary. However, its most notable aspect could be attributed to its firework display at the end of each night. 

“People know about GlobalFest because of the fireworks and oftentimes the very first time they come, that’s the only thing that they come for,” said Ken Goosen, Cheif Operating Officer (COO) at GlobalFest. 

GlobalFest is a five day festival that has been happening in Calgary since 2001. However, the groundwork for the festival began in 1993, as The Calgary Fireworks Festival Society searched for the right location to suit their dreams. 

It was important to the society to ensure that they found a space that offered a viewing area for a large crowd, fit their safety regulations and most of all, could house a large-scale firework display. After eight years of searching, the society came across Elliston Park and the rest is history. Now in 2023, GlobalFest has just completed its 22nd season and is only looking forward to more. 

“We actually have tentatively planned out our fireworks and nations, or at least the themes for the nations for 2024, 2025 and 2026 at this point,” said Goosen.

Goosen said that typically, the team of facilitators for GlobalFest will spend at least 18 months planning for the five night festival each year. Not only does a lot of pre-planning go into the festival alone, but also into the finale firework display that is put on by the GlobalFest team themselves. 

“We’re asking people if you believe strongly in this, whatever it is, to not just passively talk about it, not to just sort of let it go, but actually get involved, get your hands dirty, take a step forward.”

Ken Goosen, Cheif Operating Officer GlobalFest.

Kelly Guille, President at Archangel Fireworks Inc., is the firework director for GlobalFest and usually spends a month before the festival working out a theme and other aspects of the show with Goosen. Goosen said that so much time goes into planning the firework show because they always want to make sure they are conveying a strong message that will impact their audience. 

“Having everybody during the fireworks escape from their reality, whatever that reality is, whatever is hitting hard, they have 24 minutes of just being able to escape and letting the artistry and the music and everything that’s being presented in the sky just transport them somewhere else,” said Goosen. “To see a smile on their face, to me that’s invaluable.”

This year’s finale firework show was called ACTION. The hope for the GlobalFest team was to convey a message that inspired individuals and communities to not just sit back and let life pass them by but to take power into their own hands and be the difference they want to see in the world. 

The show description said that so many people just sit on the couch and yell at the TV, hoping for change but in reality, talk is only talk. The call to action encouraged people to get off the couch and yell at the problems they see instead of whispering to a sympathetic ear. 

Through songs like “Angels By The Wings” by Sia, “Change” by Carrie Underwood, “Iridescent” by Lincoln Park and five others, GlobalFest hoped to guide audiences through the call to action, self-reflection, external encouragement and the will to make a change. 

“We’re asking people if you believe strongly in this, whatever it is, to not just passively talk about it, not to just sort of let it go, but actually get involved, get your hands dirty, take a step forward,” said Goosen. 

Fireworks are not the only important thing at GlobalFest 

While the fireworks are a vital component of GlobalFest, there are also many other elements that make it impactful to the showcasing and celebration of Calgary’s ethnocultural diversity. 

Each year, GlobalFest has a citizenship ceremony. Since 2009, over 1100 people have become Canadian citizens at GlobalFest. Goosen said that the ceremony is considered the signature event to him. 

“We’re one community, we are one city, one country and we’ve all come from somewhere else. The only ownership of the land… is our Indigenous brothers and sisters,” said Goosen. “We’ve all had to make this home and for us for GlobalFest, it’s really important that our audiences experienced that and understand and appreciate that fact because it is so important.”

Goosen said that the better we understand who our neighbours are, the stronger and more resilient we are as a community which is why it is so important to welcome new citizens to Canada at GlobalFest. 

“It just makes for a whole better life for everybody if we just take some time to get to know who our neighbour is, and not see them as a stranger, as different, but as our neighbour as a fellow citizen within the city,” said Goosen.

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Isabella West is a fourth-year Journalism student at MRU. She completed her work term over the summer of 2023 at LiveWire Calgary in partnership with the Calgary Journal.