Crowds came in droves and queued up in long lines that snaked all the way into the frigid mid-winter evenings to get a taste and catch a glimpse of one of Brandon’s most eclectic weekends.
The 11th annual Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival drew to a close after attracting huge crowds. Official numbers will be tabulated later this week.
But throughout the weekend, none of the nine pavilions were without large crowds eager to take in the show and fare of each culture.
While the always raucous and heavily attended German, English, Irish and Scottish outfits closed out the final evening for many after long waits to get in, the hospitality of all nations were also taken in by thousands.
And for those perennial favourites, little changed — why mess with success?
The bottom floor of the A.N.A.F building was transformed into an ode to all things British with a cover band belting out everything from the Beatles to Radiohead as patrons sipped on Old Speckled Hen ale or gin martinis.
At the Ukrainian pavilion, another fan favourite, was steeped in Eastern European pride with traditional dancing, music and, yes, perogies, right at home at the Ukrainian Reading Association Hall.
Large crowds also had their taste buds satisfied with empanadas, cheese arepas and pinchos at the Colombian pavilion while young dancers put on a show to a crowd at the Central United Church.
Last year, the festival saw about 40,000 visits, the highest the organizers had ever seen — and a massive jump from the first year’s 6,300.
This year may not be far off, despite fewer pavilions and crowd competition with the Dakota Nation Winterfest at the Keystone Centre.
"There wasn’t any place that didn’t have some form of lineup," said festival committee chair Richard Bruce. "The numbers will be healthy no matter what."
"It speaks volumes to the entertainment they were about and the food and the culture that they experienced."
On the first night for the opening ceremonies at the host German pavilion, there were 1,200 visits.
"And after that, lineup never quit," Bruce said.
The number is hard to pin down, but Bruce suspects the "army" of volunteers behind the festival was at least 1,000 large — doing everything from food prep, serving, cleaning, working the doors to performing. And the work for many starts in September.
"I can’t imagine — literally — how much those societies go through to bring this all together," he said. "I would be concerned about volunteer fatigue."
Bruce suspects the three -day event generates roughly $1 million in economic activity and in terms of tourism to Brandon. Bruce said there’s no way the festival would get the attendance it does without out-of-town visitors.
"It’s a lot money, it’s a lot of good," Bruce said.
With his first festival under his belt, Bruce said he will meet with the various associations and the city to find out what changes may happen next year with fresh eyes at the helm.