The number of pavilions to be featured in the upcoming Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 has dropped to nine.
The First Nations pavilion pulled out of the 11th annual multicultural event due to a conflict with the Dakota Nation Winterfest, which takes place in Brandon that same weekend.
"They can’t spread themselves that thin," said festival committee chair Richard Bruce. "That’s unfortunate but … they’re still involved in the planning process and those sorts of things, unfortunately they just don’t have a pavilion."
The nine pavilions include the Brazilian, Colombian, English, German, Honduran, Irish, Scottish and Ukrainian. The Global Village pavilion will include Peru and the Philippines.
There were originally 12 pavilions on board this year, but El Salvador and Métis pulled out earlier. Last year there were 13.
Despite the lower number, organizers are still expecting to draw large crowds to the three-day festival.
"All the other ones are up and running and there’s every expectation it will be successful," Bruce said.
The popular German pavilion saw about 5,600 visits last year, and organizers are hoping for another positive turnout.
"(The number of pavilions) dwindled down quite a bit," said Manfred Wicht, but added, "I think we’re going to have the same number of people coming out … I can pretty well assure everybody that regardless of which pavilion they visit, they’re going to have a great time."
The German pavilion, to be held at the Victoria Inn, will host the festival’s opening ceremonies this year, as it did the very first year back in 2003.
"We have some special entertainment for the opening ceremonies, and we have (Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee) tapping the keg to officially open the German pavilion," Wicht said.
"I just hope that a lot of people come out, regardless of what the temperatures might be."
The first festival 11 years ago featured seven pavilions and had roughly 6,300 pavilion visits. Last year, the festival had more than 40,000 visits.
Tom Keep was asked back in 2003 to co-ordinate the new event, after the mayor and city manager of the day — Dave Burgess and Glen Laubenstein — had discussions with former Lt.-Gov. Peter Liba.
"They wanted to more so … celebrate winter rather than just sort of surviving it," Keep said.
Keep went on to chair the event for several years and is happy to see how it has grown and evolved.
"I think it’s something that is needed and wanted in the community," he said, adding the goal is to celebrate cultures through food, music and dance.
Originally, the idea was to use community centres. However, the festival very quickly outgrew that concept.
Keep expects the event to remain popular, even with a smaller number of pavilions.
"It’s a great event and the idea was ... some pavilions will drop off and others will come on," he said.
There has been talk over the years in the community about dropping the lieutenant-governor’s name from the festival. Organizers say there’s no plans to that effect.
"I think there’s benefits to having it," Keep said. "The handle is there, and recognition as well."
After 10 years at the helm of the festival, the City of Brandon is distancing itself from the event this year, as the goal is to have the LGWF committee take more control. The city is still involved, but more behind-the-scenes.
This is Bruce’s first year as committee chair, and he says he personally hasn’t heard the suggestion to change the name.
"I’m not familiar with anybody suggesting that. I would actually be aghast if they did," he said. "I would suspect if that were to happen you would be starting from ground zero again. This festival has a history."
The city put out a call for volunteers last week, and according to a city spokesperson, it was successful. The board feels they are in a fairly good position for volunteers now, but more would always be welcome.
Visit brandonwinterfestival.ca for more information on volunteering.