Marked by capacity crowds over the weekend, organizers behind the Westman Multicultural Festival are looking to expand the annual effort next year.
Event board member Mo Karrouze, who also helped organize this year’s English pavilion, noted on Sunday that both Friday and Saturday nights found their Victoria Inn location packed to fire code limits.
The English pavilion mixed things up a bit this year by adding a more eclectic range of performers and delving deeper into their English heritage and culture.
It’s more important than ever that we celebrate in each other’s cultures, he shared, noting that as Brandon grows and becomes more multicultural, "it helps everybody understand each other’s differences."
While he clarified that we’re all from one world, it’s through understanding and embracing each other’s differences that we can truly come together as a society.
"I see a great future for (the annual event), and already next year we’ve got plans to increase pavilions and invite new cultures to us and help them financially, if we can," he said.
"What we really want to do is make people — particularly new people coming into Brandon — comfortable by enabling them to show us their culture."
Organization for next year’s events are already underway, he said, noting that while it’s too early to say which cultures might get pavilions next year, he’d like to see a return of China and for East India to get involved.
"The more the merrier," he added.
Festival board secretary and Ukrainian pavilion committee member Wanda Kurchaba shared a similar outlook on the annual event’s future, noting that her pavilion was a busy one this year.
Interest in Ukrainian culture has been increasing of late, with the Brandon Troyanda School of Ukrainian Dance ballooning in size of late, boasting 85 dancers to last year’s 40 or so.
The introduction of adult dance classes has helped, but Kurchaba said that she has also seen more people interested in reconnecting with their cultural roots.
"We’re just so proud of our culture and our heritage, as anyone is, and we really love sharing our culture and heritage, and it’s neat to be able to showcase our food, our beverages, the costuming and everything that comes along with our culture," she said.
A lot of people can’t travel, she said, noting that the annual multicultural festival gives them a chance to explore other cultures in a way they might not otherwise be able to.
In addition to expanding their festival next year, Karrouze said that they plan on shifting the event to the first weekend in February so they no longer conflict with the Dakota Nation Winterfest, which filled out much of the Keystone Centre with hockey games and cultural displays over the weekend.
In addition to no longer competing for residents’ free time, he hopes to see the shift result in the introduction of a First Nations and Métis pavilion at next year’s event.
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB