A rebranded cultural festival promises to give Westman residents a break from winter and a “trip around the world” — all without leaving Brandon.
The Westman Multicultural Festival, formerly the Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival, will take place Jan. 26-28. This year marks the 14th annual celebration.
Wanda Kurchaba, a member of the festival organizing committee, said their new tagline is “go to the pavilions” to keep in line with what festival-goers have come to call it over the years.
“A lot of people would say ‘do you go to the pavilions?’ or ‘are you going to the pavilions?’” Kurchaba said. “This is just to have a little bit of fun and raise some awareness and excitement around the event, and to continue the legacy that so many people started 14 years ago.”
The festival committee welcomed several new members this year, and as a group they decided to change the name to reflect the wider Westman community. Many rural residents come to Brandon for the event.
Last year, the festival parted ways with its title sponsor, Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon, and the 2016 event was simply called Winter Festival. There is an event with a similar name that happens on the same weekend (Dakota Nation Winterfest), which caused some confusion. Kurchaba said they discovered that some people may have misunderstood the event under its previous name, thinking that it was an outdoor event with winter activities such as snowshoeing and tobogganing.
“We thought it was an ideal opportunity to take advantage of changing things up a little bit, and giving it a fresh look,” Kurchaba said.
“There’s a really nice combination of some new people involved, and of course some people who have been involved for years, so it’s a nice blend of being able to put everything together to continue with the event.”
This year’s event will feature seven pavilions at different locations throughout Brandon — Ukrainian, Irish, Scottish, English, Mauritian, Filipino and Honduran.
Kurchaba said they are excited for people to experience “the food, the music, the cultures, the artifacts, the artwork” at the various pavilions, all organized by volunteers.
“We know that it takes a small army to organize each of the pavilions, so we’re grateful to all the volunteers that are working so hard to make it happen,” she said.
The Brandon Troyanda School of Ukrainian Dance is taking the lead organizing the Ukrainian pavilion for the first time this year. Previously, the Canadian Ukrainian Men’s Club had been the main organizer, under the leadership of Hilliard Sawchuk. While he has stepped down, Kurchaba said he has guided the committee this year.
“We’re totally excited and we are making some changes within the pavilion,” said Kurchaba, who is also a member of the Ukrainian pavilion organizing committee. “We’re one of the pavilions that has never stopped since the whole event began, so we’re really proud of that, and we are lucky to have lots of people that support our pavilion.”
The Ukrainian pavilion will offer cuisine and entertainment, including a new vodka, a new dessert and for the first time a new koubassa from a Ukrainian specialty grocery store in Regina.
“Our guests will notice changes to the decor and the setup,” Kurchaba added. “We’ll have lots of variety in the Ukrainian dances with new choreography and costumes for many of them. We will also have fantastic Ukrainian music. As always, we look forward to sharing our culture with all of our guests!”
Kerselin Fumier, president of the Mauritius Cultural Association of Brandon, is excited to once again share his culture with the wider community. Fumier moved to Brandon eight years ago from the island nation.
With some 55 families, the Mauritian community continues to grow in Brandon.
“We always struggled, every time people asked you where you’re from. It’s hard to explain where Mauritius is because it is so far, situated in the Indian Ocean.”
Volunteers put a lot of time and effort into the pavilions, and it is truly a labour of love. It is a way to celebrate the diverse community and share cultural traditions with their new community.
“We still miss our sun and sea and our coconut drinks, but we are here,” Fumier said. “It’s good for our kids to be here.”
The festival’s website gotothepavilions.com will include more details, hours and locations of the pavilions. It will be updated in the coming days.
The biggest thing we want to do is let people know it’s on, and each of the pavilions are working at doing a great job at showcasing their culture in whatever way that they do,” she said. “So hopefully people will come out.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 5, 2017