Looking for a winter getaway? You might want to try Melita.
While most Westman residents have been kicked squarely in the midsection by Mother Nature this year, Melita has been basking in the glow of winter’s warmth.
It’s Manitoba’s Mazatlán — well, somewhat — and the numbers don’t lie.
In January the average low temperature in Brandon, Souris and Minnedosa was -25 C.
In Pilot Mound, it’s colder still, -25.1 C.
Carberry, worse yet, -26 C.
Then there’s Melita, sitting with a balmy, average-low temperature of -22.3 C through the first 28 days of January.
Camiel Serruys, who runs a restaurant in Melita, said there are no local legends or theories why they’re warmer than other parts of Westman, except maybe one.
"It must be the people," Serruys said. "Our lovely, warm-hearted community."
Looking at 30 years of data, provided by Environment Canada, the warmer temperatures are more than a passing fad. It is important to note, however, the Melita weather station used to be located in Pierson, about 20 kilometres to the southwest.
On average, the Pierson/Melita area is one of the warmest spots in Manitoba, rivaled only by the southern Red River Valley in the Altona, Morden and Emerson areas.
On an annual basis, Melita is warmer than the Red River Valley when it comes to maximum temperatures. However, it is slightly more frigid than the same area when looking at the coldest temperatures.
But don’t tell a Melitan that, unless you’re prepared to face the wrath of Sunny, a nine-metre-tall banana sporting a large belt and buckle, a fashionable reminder that the community is the "Banana Belt" or warm spot in the province.
"We are the hot spot," Serruys said.
This year, Melita will celebrate its fifth annual Banana Days celebrations, which honours the mercury spike. At the heart of it all will be Sunny.
"There are still a few people that have a negative opinion about (Sunny), but I know that the event we host every year has grown so much and brings in thousands of people," said Serruys, who is president of the festival’s board.
"Some people still say, ‘Why choose a stupid cartoon character banana?’ And that’s the whole reason. The whole point is to attract people and that’s definitely what’s happened."
The tourist attraction’s guest book backs up his claim. With families from across Canada, the United States and even China checking in to catch a glimpse of the larger than life statue, which also features a Blue Jay perched on one of it’s arms and two large fluffy white gloves like Mickey Mouse.
"Little kids love it," said Tara Cameron-Tilokani, who also helps run Banana Days. "There are people from all over the world that have signed the guest book and when you’re on your way to work and you see someone stop with their family to take to a picture — it’s special."
And they stopped, which is a good thing.
Cameron-Tilokani surmised it might be Melita’s location that leads to the warmer climate. Environment Canada meteorologist Dale Marciski said she might be on to something.
"They are situated in the extreme southern part of the province, so along with other areas like the Southern Red River Valley, they get influenced more frequently by warmer air masses moving up from the U.S.," Marciski said.
And it’s not just southern air flow that affects the area.
"They are in the western part of the province, so in the winter, milder Pacific air masses will reach them more frequently and/or remain over them longer than areas farther to the east."
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