Well, a very happy new year to all! I hope that the ringing in of 2013 didn’t cause for too many headaches and bleary eyes on Jan. 1 — and if it did, I hope it was a night to remember.
As of now we find ourselves firmly planted feet first in the dregs of winter with the cool weather taking a bite out of dreams for summer nights and time outdoors. This frostbite-induced delirium can only mean one thing — no not the fact that we still have months and months left of winter, that it seems in Manitoba is an inevitable reality. It is the fact we know as a community we are nearing Brandon’s Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival once again.
Now as most of those around me would know, I love this festival. The ability to display our community is abound and the opportunity for our cultural diversity to be recognized is evident in every sense of the word. This festival has become a part of Brandon, like Folklorama in Winnipeg — it is what we are and more so, what we are becoming. That question of what we become leads me to the impetus of my writings for the week, what does this festival become?
Zeroing in on a decade of existence, the festival has seen modest growth during its time. We have seen numerous pavilions join and some leave with a further group combining forces as is the case of the global pavilion concept that has taken form over the past couple of incarnations of Winter Fest.
With that being said, I wonder where organizers could go next to make the festival new, unique or grander in scale? With most any community event, you hope over the years it grows as the Winter Fest has.
I think though in this case we are reaching the tipping point where it could become something much bigger. Our population is far more diverse than a decade ago and our ability to attract larger events has become increasingly evident through the work of our tourism and Brandon First campaigns to name a few.
So the discussion leads us to the question: where does it go? One idea that I have heard tossed around for some time is could the festival include a concert to wrap it all up similar to that of the wildly successful LG Rocks festival in downtown Brandon a couple of years back? An idea like this may have some merit. At the end of the festival bring all the participants together to celebrate what we are as a city, a group of truly unique cultures existing as one to better the community.
Most remember when the Olympic torch made its way through Brandon for Vancouver 2010 and the large-scale event that took place at the Keystone Centre in celebration of that. Does the Winter Festival culminate in a large outdoor concert featuring some of the "best of the fest" or even more so a big-name act strolling through town? Just one thought on where to take it next.
I like what organizers do with the cards they are dealt and the long hours of preparation put in are to be admired, but from what I can see of the festival, it has been predominantly Brandon residents attending and learning the culture, enjoying the food and partaking in the entertainment. Could we reach beyond our borders to be on scale with a Folklorama-type event? I wonder the true number of outside residents it attracts on a yearly basis? Is this something we strive toward or do we keep with the traditions in place? I think for Brandon truthfully it is a bit of both.
With this column, I by no means am trying to speak poorly on the festival — merely thinking aloud on how we can make it a bigger spectacle attracting outsiders to see the true beauty that is our city. Folklorama has done this well for the city of Winnipeg. It has become a tourist driver over time by taking into account a grand scale of events and entertainment, becoming a nationally recognized display spanning multiple weeks.
Truly this may be grandiose dreaming for our festival, but I believe an even greater opportunity exists to make future instalments and this city the destination of choice for that weekend. I admire the work that goes into this and am aware that upping the ante takes an even greater ask, but it is fun to dream where it could go.
The fact that this discussion is even happening is a testament to the volunteers, this opportunity exists completely as a result of the hard work put in by members of our community to share their culture with their neighbour, and in every circle no matter the size or scale, that is to be commended and celebrated.
» Shaun Cameron is a lifelong Brandon resident. He has dabbled in politics and is now chair of Renaissance Brandon, the city’s downtown development corporation. His column appears regularly.