If the Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival is Brandon’s cultural beacon, there is no question the volunteers who make the festival possible are its light.
Working to wrap cabbage rolls, pinch perogies and stir borscht, Helen Lazaruk, Fran Perchaluk and Phyllis Shurb represent just three of the more than 65 volunteers that work at the Ukrainian pavilion — they’re also the heart and soul of the festival.
"I love to volunteer because it’s our heritage," said Perchaluk, who has been volunteering to work at the pavilion since the festival’s inception 10 years ago.
To get a sense of their dedication, one needs to look no further than the numbers.
• 12,000 — The number of perogies consumed at the Ukrainian pavilion during the 2013 Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival.
• 6,000 — The number of cabbage rolls eaten during the three-day event.
• 550 — Pounds of sausage.
• 450 — The number of loaves of rye and poppy seed bread.
The Ukrainian volunteers, Perchaluk said, now have the festival down to a science — a science that includes stretching to warm up prior to making the mounds and mounds of food necessary to fill festival goers’ bellies.
"It’s more of a social club and the time goes by so fast. We have lunch together, coffee together and we exercise."
The pavilion, like so many, has also undergone a transformation since the first year.
"When we first started we thought maybe 200 people would go through so we prepped food for that," pavilion co-ordinator Hilliard Sawchuk said. "We ran out on the first night."
Today, it’s not uncommon to see a lineup two to three blocks long outside of the pavilion, something Sawchuk credits the food, entertainment and atmosphere for.
"Everyone has told me that this year our entertainment package is the best it’s ever been," Sawchuk said about a lineup that includes Troyanda and Teren Dancers, and an all-Ukrainian band featuring Brooklynn and Brenna Sawchuk.
But it isn’t possible without the volunteers, Sawchuk said.
"We’re looking at hundreds and hundreds of volunteer man hours to put on the festival," Sawchuk said.
"We couldn’t do it without them."
In the German kitchen, head chef Larry de Vries guides a group of volunteers on how to ice a German "love cake."
"We do it because we are passionate about it and because we want to show off our culture because we believe it’s worthwhile," de Vries said.
"The key is the sense of community that you feel from the festival and I think you get that at all the pavilions. Everyone is here because they love doing it. It’s a labour of love."
With schnitzel, spaetzle noodles and sauerkraut on the go, de Vries expects between 5,000 to 6,000 people to pass through the German pavilion this year.