The city’s western roots paid tribute to its multicultural present at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair on Wednesday.
This year marked the fair’s first New Canadians Day in its 107-year history.
"I think what we wanted to do is capture the fact that this community is really growing and it’s accepting more and more new Canadians," said Rob O’Connor, general manager for the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba. "People are deciding to move here, and I think we wanted just to showcase that and let people know that we’re welcoming them to our community."
The amphitheatre at the Keystone Centre filled with colours and sounds of some of the city’s newer cultures.
The girls of the Island Vibe Dance Group swirled in their multi-coloured dresses as they celebrated their Mauritian heritage by performing a Sega dance. The dance group is made up of the daughters of Mauritian immigrants who came to Brandon to work at Maple Leaf Foods.
The nine dancers range in age from two years old to 15. The eldest are from Mauritius, while the two youngest are Canadian-born.
Parents initially formed the group so their kids could have fun and would have something to do.
The girls have performed at the Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival, the Summer Fair and multicultural events but this was their first Winter Fair.
"We like to share our culture," 14-year-old dancer Diksha Boodhoo said.
Denny Philp, 72, entered the amphitheatre in search of fiddlers and found girls swaying and spinning in dresses instead.
Draft horses and harness ponies are usually Philp’s thing, but the lifelong area resident and longtime fair goer didn’t mind a little multicultural flair.
"Great!" Philp said of the dancing. "They’re very into it, these kids. It’s something different."
Members of Son Latino — a mix of immigrants from such countries as Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica who are joined by a couple of Canadians — performed tropical Latin music.
Group member Jaime Chinchilla saw the event as a chance for immigrants to share their culture.
"We like the fact that it’s a New Canadian Day," Chinchilla said. "It’s really important in terms of cultural integration."
It was the group’s second time performing at the fair. its first performance at the fair a couple of years ago was in a barn in front of cowboys. It took a while, but the audience warmed up to the music.
"Cowboys can dance Salsa, too," Chinchilla said with a smile.
New Canadians Day also provided a chance for immigrants and Canadian-born citizens alike to reaffirm their citizenship during a ceremony led by Justice Minister Andrew Swan.
Among those to take the oath was Joy Escalera, who has landed immigrant status in Canada and hopes to attain full citizenship someday.
Escalera, her husband and two children came to Canada from the Philippines in December 2011 and settled in Brandon. Their youngest child, a two-year-old daughter, was born in Canada.
This marked Escalera’s second Winter Fair. While it was difficult to understand what was happening at first — equestrian events would be something only the rich could afford to attend in her home country, and in the Philippines festivals are usually outdoors and not inside — she has grown to appreciate its importance to her Canadian-born friends.
"I have a better understanding that this speaks of the history of Canada," Escalera said. "I’m liking it because it’s a new experience. It’s something that you learn, and you learn to appreciate, like Canada as a country."
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