Most of Manitoba’s major festivals celebrate the province’s many different ethnic groups, from Gimli’s Icelandic Festival to the February Festival du Voyageur honoring Manitoba’s French-speaking fur traders in Winnipeg’s French Quarter. Very few ethnic groups are not represented at Winnipeg’s Folkorama festival and Winnipeg’s annual fringe festival ranks second only to Edmonton’s in both Canada and North America.
Northern Manitoba Trappers’ Festival
Manitoba’s oldest winter festival has taken place for four days each February in the far northern community of The Pas since 1916. Moose calling, trap setting, canoe packing, a world championship dog race, bannock baking, and even beard growing are among the wacky contests and challenges. Children’s activities, arts and crafts, and evening festivities are also on the agenda.
Festival du Voyageur
A 10-day celebration in February of Manitoba’s French speaking voyageurs and fur traders, no winter festival in western Canada rivals the size of Winnipeg’s Festival du Voyageur, fittingly held in the city’s French Quarter. Fort Gibraltar hosts a 19th century historic interpretation and over 300 live musical performances take place across the area. A governor’s ball, traditional cuisine, and the International Sled Dog Classic are also on the docket.
Manitoba Summer Fair
Brandon kicks off each Manitoba summer with this vibrant fair spanning four days at the city’s Keystone Center Grounds. Festivities include contests, concerts, sprawling midway, petting zoo, horse shows, and all the traditional concession snacks.
Manitoba Highland Gathering
Each June, the small community of Selkirk hosts Manitoba’s biggest highland festival not far northeast of Winnipeg along the Red River. A Scottish pub serves tasty brews to spectators as they watch drumming, piping, and dance competitions. Athletic activities include kayaking, canoeing, and impressive feats of strength. The celebration also features sheep herding and shearing competitions.
Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival
The town of Dauphin may host Canada’s biggest Ukrainian festival during the first weekend of August, but visitors can enjoy designing their own intricately decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs during this summer at the Selo Ukraina site at Riding Mountain National Park’s edge. Fabric and wheat weaving, Cossack camps, and freshly baked bread from traditional peech ovens are just a few of the cool demonstrations. No other place in Manitoba depicts the province’s Ukrainian history in more detail than the Ukrainian Centennial Memorial Park.
Gimli’s annual August Icelandic festival is the second oldest cultural event in all of Canada. Viking encampments and warfare tactic demonstrations are among the most exciting displays by the world’s biggest Icelandic community outside of Iceland. The festival also features a parade, midway, and several tasty Icelandic treats from Amma’s kitchen. Gimli’s beach is also the site of a sandcastle building contest and beach volleyball tournament.
Visitors can experience up to 45 of Manitoba’s different cultures at once during Winnipeg’s August Folklorama, originally a one-time event held in 1970 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Manitoba becoming a Canadian province. More than 40 years later, at least 21 percent of Folklorama attendees arrive from outside the area to join the festivities. About 20,000 volunteers dish out a million beverages and 600,000 meals and guests enjoy over 1,500 live shows by about 3,000 entertainers. Each country represented at Folklorama has its own pavilion filled with ethnic food, music, dance, crafts, and even imported alcohol.
This First Nations cultural celebration is named after its sacred gathering site in Manitoba’s western Whiteshell region. Most of the people who attend this five-day event leave with a better understanding of cultures across the continent. Activities include educational conferences, people’s choice music awards, a global marketplace, and international pow-wow competition held between late October and early November.