Jamaicans in, Irish out of Multicultural Festival
The Irish pavilion won’t be taking part in the 16th annual festival, which runs from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. It has been part of the festival since it began.
Meanwhile, the city’s growing Jamaican community has decided to host a pavilion next year, while the Mauritius pavilion is returning after a one-year hiatus.
“This year there were just too many things seemingly against us,” said Tyler Foster, second vice-president of the Irish Society of Western Manitoba.
“The main reason is volunteer fatigue,” Foster said. “Our numbers are getting smaller in the Irish Society.”
“It’s a monumental undertaking.”
Foster said the board will decide on a year-to-year basis whether they will participate in the festival.
“It’s upsetting not to be able to do it,” Foster added, “but at the same time, there is a sense of relief.”
He noted the Irish Society will still be putting on its annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
“We’ve done that for 29 years. We’re not going to stop that.”
A lot of hard work goes into hosting a pavilion, said festival chairman Richard Bruce — not just the three days of the event, but the months that are spent getting prepared, and for some it can get to be too much.
“It doesn’t matter which pavilion you’re in, if they go for the three nights, that’s a tremendous amount of work, and it’s literally built on the back of volunteers,” Bruce said.
The festival is run by hundreds of volunteers recruited by the various cultural societies and associations that host the pavilions.
Bruce noted the Mauritius community is already very active in the city.
“They celebrate lots of things, because Mauritius is actually a multicultural country,” Bruce said.
“I think they decided they were so busy, it was just time for a hiatus (last year).”
Emelio Brown, president of Westman Jamaican Community Inc., said they finally have enough volunteers to host their own pavilion on the Friday and Saturday at Prairie Oasis Senior Centre.
“This will be quite a milestone for us,” said Brown. “We are making history here.”
Brown said the pavilion will feature live reggae music as well as dancing and, of course, jerk chicken and pork.
Brown said the board decided to try it over two days rather than three for the first year.
In addition to Jamaica and Mauritius, England, Honduras, India, Métis, Mexico, Philippines, Scotland and Ukraine will be hosting pavilions.
Festival-goers to the signature winter event in Brandon can enjoy food, beverages, entertainment, art and customs from around the world as they visit the various pavilions.
“You’ll have a really good time,” Bruce promised.
He noted many of the pavilions are within walking distance of one another, depending on the weather.
“When it all comes together, it’s quite an experience,” he said.
It is estimated that between 26,000 to 30,000 people attend the event each year.
Foster, who is also treasurer of the Westman Multicultural Festival, said the numbers had been declining over the past few years.
“People are maybe choosing to stay home more,” Foster said, adding last year saw a reversal of that trend, staying on par with the year before.
“We’re trying hard,” he said. “We’re adding new pavilions, we’re getting a better website. We’re getting the message out there through a lot of social media and we’re getting a lot of donations in to help the pavilions.”
Admission to each pavilion is free and free bus service will also be available (including Handi-Transit).
Details on the festival can be found online at gotothepavilions.com and on Twitter @wmmfest, Instagram and Facebook /wmmfest. #gotothepavilions #pavilions2019.
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