The city’s annual weekend of cultural splendour began after the opening ceremonies of the 11th Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival at the host German pavilion last night.
And the festival’s namesake, Manitoba Lt.-Gov. Philip S. Lee, was on hand to remind the crowd of more than 300 that the festival is "the warmest weekend of winter."
"I can see Brandon is becoming more multicultural which is very fitting in Canada because to be Canadian you have to be multicultural," he said, backed by colourful, traditionally dressed ambassadors from each of the nine pavilions.
"In the last four years, I’ve enjoyed watching this festival grow, and seeing these new groups organize to celebrate the diversity of Brandon and western Manitoba."
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst was flanked by the Queen’s representative and she congratulated organizers of the "rich and vibrant" volunteer-driven event.
"I’m also very pleased to see that inclusiveness continues to be the hallmark of this event," she said. "The festival is a community event that allows all of us to participate in a marvellous celebration of unity, harmony, goodwill, great food and great entertainment."
"Cultural diversity is one of the city’s most valuable assets."
Among the evening’s political special guests was Terry Goertzen, deputy minister of tourism, culture, sport and consumer protection
"The winter festival is a testament to our resilience ... it reminds us that we need to seize the opportunity in every season," he said.
As dozens of people packed the nearby entrance waiting to get into the filled Victoria Inn and Suites Bavarian-decorated salon, Lee was once again beckoned to the stage to tap the keg — an Oktoberfest tradition of letting the beer flow and the festivities begin.
Shortly after the steins of the on-stage dignitaries were filled with foamy ale, visitors quickly gravitated to the food, abruptly making a line that snaked from one end of the salon to the other.
Mere metres from the German pavilion was another of the festival’s perennial favourites — the Scottish pavilion.
Hundreds filled the Imperial Ballroom at the Victoria Inn with cups filled with beer or scotch and plated haggis while kilted bagpipers marched to the stage through the clapping crowd, which gave way to the evening’s Highland dancers’ performance.
Those looking for a short getaway from the -23 C windswept evening didn’t have far to travel. Inside the Ukrainian National Home, the air was warm and heavy like the streets of Rio.
During the first evening of the Brazilian pavilion, glittering, feathered samba dancers took to the stage and moved to the rhythm of the roaring percussion, played by drummers also dressed for the balmy temperatures of the community hall.
The stage show grew quickly as dancers held out hands, inviting some of the hundreds in the crowd to come on stage to mimic the hip-gyrations of the smiling samba dancers.
The heat inside the hall was also coming from the kitchen, where cooks prepared and served chicken stroganoff and feijoada, a black bean stew considered to be the national dish of Brazil.
The festival continues this evening through Saturday. This year, the festival welcomes two new pavilions: Honduras and Peru.