As you may be able to tell, summer is festival time here in Winnipeg. Hardly a week goes by without one festival ending and another one beginning. With the close of the Winnipeg Fringe Festival and August on the horizon it’s time for Winnipeg to swing its doors wide open and welcome the world. Literally.
Envisioned by Mayor Steven Juba in 1965, his office laid the groundwork for what was to become the largest and longest running celebration of ethnic and cultural diversity on the planet. The first official Folklorama festival took place in 1970 and played host to 21 distinct pavilions each one representing a different cultural group that had made it’s home in Manitoba.
40 years later and the celebration is still going strong, from an estimated attendance of 75,000 people in 1970 to 442,000 patrons in 2009 the event shows no sign of slowing down.
As a newcomer to the event you may ask Bob, what can I expect if I visit Folklorama this year? Why should I visit, Winnipeg for this event? The simple answer to those questions would be to let your hair down and have a good time. For example you could take in the German Pavilion enjoying a good beer with a couple of hundred new friends swaying back and forth to a big brass band in the beer garden. If beer is not your thing, perhaps you would like to take in a Ken-do exhibition at the Japanese pavilion while noshing on some freshly rolled sushi.
The point of the exercise is to open your mind and explore cultures that may be foreign to you all without leaving North America. Where else could you take in a Paraguayan Gaucho doing rope tricks and the next hour be transported to the Greek Isles downing shots of Ouzo?
The numbers speak for themselves, people travel the world coming to Winnipeg to give of themselves and of their culture. No expense is spared by the host families to give the entertainers they import from their homelands a good Canadian welcome. Likewise tour buses line the pavilion areas around town disgorging eager tour groups ready to embrace what we Winnipeggers almost take for granted.
Our city is a cultural mosaic, we embrace and encourage newcomers from foreign lands to keep what is special from the lands they once called home. We do not as a rule impose a melting pot ideology, instead we welcome them to add to the growing tapestry that is our city.
We welcome everyone immigrant, resident or traveller alike.
Come to Winnipeg, stay a while and enjoy our hospitality.