Sunday, August 15, 2010
Folklorama is the largest and longest-running festival of its kind in the world, a fact acknowledged by the International Council of Organizations for Folklore Festivals and Folk Art. It is organized by the Folk Arts Council of Winnipeg and is an annual event that runs for two weeks each August, this year from the 1st til the 14th. Visitors to the festival are invited to sample exotic cuisine and celebrate the cultural and ethnic heritage of people from dozens of countries who have made Winnipeg their home. Each country has an assigned venue, known as a pavilion.
Folklorama was first held in August, 1970, and was originally intended to be a one-time occurrence in celebration of Manitoba's centennial. It was such a success, however, that it has become a much anticipated annual event. The first festival was only a week long and featured 21 different cultures. This year 43 pavilions are being presented, with half operating in week one and half in week two of the festival. Each pavilion presents a show featuring the song and dance of their culture, along with trademark ethnic cuisine and a cultural display and most pavilions also provide imported alcohol from their feature country.
We have made Folklorama an annual event and attend several of the Pavilions each year. Last year we tried something different, the “VIP World Tour”, visiting Russia, Korea and Mexico in one evening, and it was wonderful. We were picked up and delivered by bus to the three pavilions, by-passing the line ups to enter. We had reserved seating, a 'tour guide' and full table service which was so much more relaxing than standing in yet another line to pick up our snacks and beverages. It is possible to visit 3 pavilions in an evening, but it does mean driving from one to another, hunting for a parking spot, etc. (and of course, also worrying about those national 'beverages' that are offered at each pavilion. It costs a little bit more to take the “World Tour”, but is well worth the few extra dollars spent!
This year we decided to do the World Tour again, visiting Columbia, Celtic Ireland and Scotland.
We started our tour at the Columbian Pavilion. This is the first year for this Pavilion and they did a marvelous job. We thoroughly enjoyed the appetizer, Empanadas, and Refajo, a mixture of Columbian Beer and pop was light and refreshing and just perfect for the evening, which was extremely hot and humid. The entertainment was provided by the Compania de danza Orrkeseos, a dance troup imported from Bogata, and also by a charming troup of local children. We all know about Columbian coffee, but we also learned that Columbia is one of the largest flower exporters in the world (#1 for carnations). The people running the paviliion were a delight, friendly and so anxious to share the culture of their wonderful country. Mike and I traveled to Columbia many years ago, visiting Santa Marta and Cartegna, and it was a pleasure to revive the memories of our adventures.
We then traveled on to the Celtic Ireland Pavilion, one of the most popular on the tour, with reason. The 'show' was 45 minutes long, featuring Riverdance style dancers from the Brady Academy of Irish Dance and several performances by an amazingly talented local musician, Sierra Noble. The costumes worn by the dancers are magnificent, and expensive! Used costumes start at $400.00, new at $3,000.00! Dinner, by the way, was classic Irish pub fare, meat pies and mashed potatoes. We also were informed that the Pavilion sells more Guinness in one week than any single Winnipeg bar does in a year! Not too much of a surprise there - the Pavilion was not air-conditioned, and it was hot!!!!
We finished off the evening in Scotland, where we greeted by the Winnipeg City Police Pipe Band. The Scottish Pavilion has non-stop action and the Pipe Band was not part of the on-stage show but were there to keep the crowd entertained between shows and they did a fantastic job. Of course, it helps you like the sound of bag pipes, which I do! I attempted to download a video, but have given up. Oh well, I pretty sure everyone knows what bag pipes sound like! After a dessert of Scottish shortcake and trifle, and entertainment provided by the Ena Sutton Highland Dancers and the Lork Selkirk Boys Band (yes, more Bag Pipes!) as well as a crew of very talented, energetic local musicians, we moved into the Cultural Display area, which thankfully was air conditioned because by this point in the evening we were somewhat wilted. I found the "world-famous" Elliott tartan on the tartan display boards, and worked my way through several of the books on display, leaving them all open to the page featuring the Elliott clan. Guess I should mention that my maiden name was Elliott and although the family has been in Canada for many hundred of years, we originated in Scotland (and even have our own castle!)
It was a great evening and we can't wait to do it all again next year!