Wintertime Fun

In the midst of the terrible cold in lovely Manitoba (and I mean it, it’s been gnarly lately), someone along the way decided that it would be a fabulous idea to have a winter festival to celebrate the different cultural communities that make up this place. And in the gnarly cold, this means lining up for stuff…outside. But hey, the cold creates character, right? In all seriousness, the┬áLieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival is one heck of a party, even if it’s in the cold! For those who don’t know, the festival comprises of different pavilions all over the city from varying cultural groups in our area. There is food, music, entertainment and some history lessons!

I had wanted to go last year, as I was like “Oh my! Something to do in Brandon! In the winter!”; however, I unfortunately had no one to go with and didn’t feel like trekking out alone. So this winter, I was determined to go and I rounded up some people to trek out into the cold with!

The first pavilion we hit was El Salvador. It was probably the most tame and most family friendly that we went to. I wanted to make sure I could get some vegetarian food somewhere, so this was a good pavilion for that. I had a quesadilla, but not in the way we would think of one. It looked like a thin, flat pound cake. And ohhh it was so sweet! It had some cheese in the middle, but I think my favourite part of it was the bread part. So good! The music and dancing was fun, and it was nice seeing something that you really don’t see everyday. And really, who knows too much about El Salvador? I sure don’t! So it was good to learn and see something different.

Next up was the Irish pavilion, complete with Paddy’s Pub. I’m not going to lie, there were incredibly adorable old Irish men in their little green get-ups which I loved. The music was fantastic, as were the dancers. They were incredible! If I’ve researched correctly, it was mostly Irish stepdancing. I wish I had gotten a picture of all the dancers, but I wasn’t close enough to them to get one. The girls had on these incredibly bouncy, full on ringlet wigs and their costume dresses were intricate in traditional detail. They were just amazing!

After the Irish pavilion, we headed to the Scottish one! What can I say? I LOVE KILTS. So many kilts. And I also happen to know one of the big Scottish families in the area (accents still intact), who were all participating in different ways – serving food, selling tickets and announcing all the acts! Again, there was a great live band performing. But to be honest, I was in the back and I was distracted by all the kilts, so I wasn’t paying too much attention.

Finally, we hit up the German pavilion. The only one we had to wait in line for! Pretty good, eh? I had heard that the German pavilion was always one of the best at the Winter Festival, so I suppose it was fitting to check that one out last. We certainly stayed there the longest! It was quite the show with non-stop entertainment. Lots of tuba and trombone sounds and some fun dancing acts. Who knew the orchestra could make The Village People’s YMCA sound German? Now, I don’t know if it’s the Dutch in me, but I don’t know if I was fully prepared for the German’s boisterous event. Lots of “zigga zigga zigga oi oi oi’s!” Lots of dancing participation from the crowd. But hey, I guess that’s why it’s one of the most popular pavilions, right? You know you’ll end up having a good time, because it really is just a big party.

***On a side note, the chef’s name at the pavilion was Larry De Vries. Ever since I’ve moved here, people have always ask me if I’m related to Larry. No folks, I am not related to Larry. And now I just can’t stop thinking about Larry’s ancestry…is he half-Dutch, half-German? Is he actually more German than Dutch, but the name De Vries has just been passed down because that’s the way the cookie crumbled? So. Many. Questions.

All in the all, the night just got better and better. It’s great that Brandon has this festival, and I’ve only heard good things about it from people who attend. A friends of mine said “Why in the world do they have to have it in the winter? It’s so cold!”, but I think that’s the point. It’s nice to have something in the winter that gets us out and having fun. Winter can be so blah and keep us in, not wanting to do anything. The Winter Festival is a great way to break things up. I’m already looking forward to next years one and I’m going to make sure I go to some pavilions that I didn’t get the chance to go to this year!

P.S. I really did have pictures and even a little video, but they are deciding to not upload! Sorry!

Louis Riel Day? A Brief History.

I support statutory holidays, even if I don’t know anything about them. Ontario has Family Day, some weird put together holiday just to get another stat holiday for the year. Now here in Manitoba, it’s Louis Riel Day. I’ve heard of this man here and there in the classroom, but don’t know much, to be honest. In fact, I’ve heard from a lot of Manitoban’s that they don’t even know that much about him. I decided to brush up on my history today and learn all about the man who gives us a well appreciated statutory holiday.

THE MAN: Louis David Riel, born October 22, 1844, near modern day Winnipeg. He was from a prominent Metis family, and was interested in the priesthood during his younger years, and attended a seminary in Montreal before his father’s death in 1864. After that, he was less interested and became a little rebellious and was asked to leave the seminary. He returned to the Red River Settlement in 1868. Riel was described as a fine scholar and gifted student, but a little odd and moody.

THE ACT: Things were getting messy here in Manitoba, or what would be known as Manitoba eventually. There were “eastern” interests and the influx of Anglo’s in the area increased tensions and anxieties among the First Nations and Metis people. Needless to say, stuff happened to create lots of unrest and Riel wasn’t putting up with it. Riel and others seized Fort Garry. They created a provisional government, and were so not letting Canada take authority over them and the land without any discussions.

Many people, even Anglo’s, were in support of Riel and what he and others were doing. However, the “pro-Canadians” were plotting against the provisional government during this time and in the end, one of them, Thomas Scott, was executed by firing squad. Lovely.

Then, the provisional government made their way to Ottawa in March of 1870. These talks between the provisional government and MacDonald led to the Manitoba Act, which created the province of Manitoba as a part of Canada.

THE AFTERMATH: There was a bounty on Riel’s head. Awesome, right? So, he had to flee. This was the effective end to the Rebellion. Riel fled to the States. But just because he was there, didn’t mean that his popularity disappeared. Even though he wasn’t even in Canada during election time for the Manitoba seat in Parliament, Riel was elected. Of course, that didn’t exactly work out and he was kicked out when he showed up in Ottawa.

The following years were interesting for Riel, with visions from God, and questionable actions like tearing his clothes off all the time. His mental state was certainly questioned at the time.

THE RETURN: Riel, with the request from others, mobilized another rebellion-type action in Saskatchewan (or, what was the North West Territories). He tried the peaceful way, but of course that didn’t work out. Things got violent and the government certainly wasn’t pleased. More troops were sent this way, and in the end, Riel surrendered.

We all know what happened after that. Things were looking down, and Riel was hanged for treason on November 16, 1885.

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It’s so incredibly interesting that Manitoba chooses to celebrate Louis Riel. Certainly during his life, he was despised by the majority of Anglo-Canadians and was considered insane by most, and some to this day think he was a nutjob. And of course, he was executed in the end for his actions, yet remains to be the prominent founder of Manitoba. Oh Manitoba, how you intrigue me. In the end, I will gladly take a day off in Riel’s honour. And I mean, how cool is it to be a part of a province where the prominent founder was as hardcore and awesome as Riel?

Has Moving Made Me More “Canadian”?

I’m definitely not one for stereotypes, but I somehow find myself being engulfed by the stereotypical “Canadian” character that so many think about when they think “Canada”. Leaving southern Ontario has certainly changed me a little, or maybe it’s just me doing my best to adapt to the surroundings. Either way, I find myself being more “Canadian” since I’ve moved to Brandon.

First, the friendliness. Generally, I think a Canadian stereotype/expectation is friendliness, and I’ve actually seen that stereotype in action here. I’ve found that I’ve had to change and adapt my ignore-everyone-one-the-street thing. I find people here just don’t do that as much, and although I can do some ignoring sometimes (and I really try my best to – southern Ontario habit), it’s harder to do since there is that small town, friendly vibe to Brandon. I remember when I was younger in southern Ontario, walking on the streets and saying hello to people; however, that changed awhile ago. People are so entranced in their own worlds and aren’t interested in interacting with people they don’t know, just to say hi on the street. It’s weird to see that friendliness in southern Ontario. So here I am in Brandon, trying to get rid of my lack of stranger friendliness and just saying hi, or smiling.

And then there’s hockey. Okay, I will admit, I’ve only been to one Brandon Wheat Kings game (they won, by the way!), but the fact that I have even been to one is a huge accomplishment. Also, the fact that I’ve contemplated buying a ticket before for other games is another big accomplishment. See, I’m not a sports person. I don’t watch any sports on T.V., so why would I want to go to a hockey game? But there I was on Friday, enjoying the game and quietly (and secretly) getting into it, although I could do without Willie the mascot, as I have the obviously common fear of mascots and anything that looks like them.

Then, Tim Horton’s. The Canadian staple. In Hamilton, I would never spend any time at Timmies. If we’d go get a coffee of some sort (usually a chai latte or a frap) it’d be at Second Cup or Starbucks. None of this plain-jane Tim Horton’s stuff. Admittedly, I spent a huge amount of my time in high school at Tim Horton’s when I lived in northern Ontario in a small hick town in the middle of nowhere, but that was only because it was literally the only thing to do in town. That, and car tag. Now in Brandon, I find myself at Tim Horton’s a lot, enjoying a coffee or french vanilla with friends.

I’m certainly not complaining about my changes since moving here. It never hurt to be more “Canadian”, even though these are just stereotypes…but they maybe have a little truth to them?


Alright, I think I’ve discovered that I love places that are a little rough around the edges. Hamilton, Ontario may be one of the greatest loves of my life…and in general, Manitoba is another love. Guess what? Both of these places are a little (maybe even a lot) rough around the edges.

I’ve never really had the desire to move to places that people rave about or are obsessed with (read: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver), but it’s the places that no one really wants to be that I end up in. Now, let’s be clear, Hamilton and Brandon are two very different cities, and one would probably equate Hamilton to Winnipeg more quickly than one would to Hamilton and Brandon. But let’s just say this: Brandon has a lot of potential, much like Hamilton, but it doesn’t really know what to do, much like Hamilton (although some awesome things are happening there right now).

I think most people would say Brandon is the place where there is “nothing to do”. The culture and arts aren’t great. The nightlife is suffering, and there is even a lack of variety in restaurants. So does Brandon need a renaissance? Mmhmm. But much like Hamilton, Brandon right now is trying to turn things around, and hey, these things take time.

For example, Brandon is working on the “downtown pedestrian mall” (although many Brandon residents scoff at this attempt at downtown renewal), and there are already many things in place that make the city at least a little worth it. There is the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, which has been around for 100 years, there are numerous trails and parks within the city, but even more just a short drive outside of Brandon. And although I hate that there isn’t Thai food in this city, at least there’s Indian, as well as some awesome Italian food, and a few great pub spots, with live music. Not to mention that there are always different events going on at the Keystone Centre.

So what am I getting at? I’m saying that yes, Brandon needs a little bit of an upgrade, but just because things aren’t flashing in your face as to what you can do here, doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to do. You have to look a little harder, much like you do in Hamilton. There isn’t something new constantly going on and maybe it’s not the “coolest” place, but it has a good start for a city of about 50,000 people. However, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Like I said, I always end up in the places that are a little rough around the edges and that people generally don’t end up in. It’s make you creative, and it gives a little character to the city. So in the end, the renaissance may come, but for now, I’ll take what Brandon has to offer.

*ETA: I think some people in Brandon DO know what to do, but many others are satisfied with how things are here. It’s just a matter of bringing vision to life.

Unexpected Diversity

Throughout my fine summers in Manitoba, I got the picture of a very white-washed province. And let’s be honest, most of rural Manitoba is very white-washed, but has a great Aboriginal presence as well. That’s as far as diversity went for me when I’ve been out here.

Once I moved to Brandon, I thought that I would be giving up diversity and culture. I thought that I wouldn’t see a person of either white or Aboriginal descent for days upon days, months upon months. But Brandon has refreshingly proven me wrong.

When I step out into the city, I see so many different backgrounds and cultures. Diversity is all around, although somehow surprising to me. Spanish, Chinese, Korean, African-American, Aboriginal, Indian (East – thank you very much) and many more are all in this little city.

For some reason, Brandon is quite the little hotspot for diversity, and thank goodness for that! I know others may feel differently, but I for one love the diversity and am so pleasantly surprised by it. It makes me feel not so far out of touch with the rest of the world. It makes me remember some things of home, but also makes me realize the great potential this little city has.

P.S. I think I have officially coined Brandon as “the little city”!

A New Pace

I’m used to the hustle and bustle of southern Ontario. Getting places very fast on the 400 series highways…making it to Toronto, Burlington or Oakville in record time. Here, things are a little different. People drive slow. Going 50 in a 70. Going 40 in a 50. Or, they actually go the speed limit, which I’m still not quite used to. They take time doing things. People just aren’t in a rush to get things done.

I’ve had an averse reaction to this initially. I still like the rush, but there is simply no rush here. However, I’ve been thinking, is this new, slower pace the end of the world? Maybe it’ll be nice. Maybe people are slower paced here because they just enjoy and appreciate time a little more than those in Ontario do. Maybe they just enjoy life a little more. Less stress. Less anger. More life. More love.

So, I have chosen to embrace the slow-paced life. I will at least try. Driving a little slower shouldn’t kill me, and taking a more laid-back approach to life may improve my quality of life. Who knows? All I know is that it’s happening, and I’m learning to embrace this new life slowly, but surely.