Community·Opinion

Manitoba festivals that let out your inner adventurer

Local blogger, Susie Erjavec Parker, recommends her favourite Manitoba festivals for families

Local blogger, Susie Erjavec Parker, recommends her favourite Manitoba festivals for families

Manitoba's festival season offers plenty for the little ones. (Travis Ross, photographer)

Summer in Manitoba is magical. There is something about those long prairie days when the sun can't seem to leave the sky.

School's out, ice cream for dinner is in, and the summer living is great. Between the city and the beaches, cottage country, strawberry picking, biking to the Viking and fishing at Lockport, you can't say you're ever bored during a Manitoba summer.

So, as you pack up your family with smartphone or camera in tow, consider sending your favourite images to CBC Manitoba's Summer Photo Contest using the hashtag #cbcmbsummer.

Now, here are my top picks for summer festivals you have to try this year:

50th Annual Manitoba Highland Gathering, July 2-3

The 50th annual Manitoba Highland Gathering is a non-profit, volunteer-based, family fun-filled event celebrating Scottish heritage, culture, arts and sports. Attractions include pipe bands, Highland dancing, heavy games, the 25th annual Manitoba Canoe/Kayak Marathon Championships, multicultural entertainment, wee folks area (face painting, petting zoo, mini golf, wee heavy games), Scottish market, regional history, Manitoba Genealogical Society, Wee Willies Pub, Red Lion Scottish Food Booth, food vendors, participation dancing, entertainment stage, Manitoba living history and Viking living history.

Frog Follies & Agricultural Fair, July 7-10

Frogs and kids — need I say more? This thriving festival includes a slow-pitch tournament, a parade and performances by local artists. There is a bouncy castle and a kids' tent with face painting, and the Tadpole Zone offers plenty of hands-on fun for wee ones. Of course, the highlight of the weekend is the famous frog jumping championship, which continues to draw record crowds year after year.

Soca Reggae Festival, July 8 & 9

Our family has a love affair with the Caribbean. We've visited a few times and this festival brings island vibes right in the heart of Winnipeg's Exchange District. Bring your chairs and dancing shoes, because you will not want to sit still once that soca/reggae beat starts to play. The kids will love the music and the whole family will have fun trying the flavours of the Caribbean, with food trucks and vendors sure to line the surrounding streets during this high-energy festival.

Manitoba Stampede and Exhibition, July 21-24

What began as a dream in 1964 to build the largest rodeo east of the Calgary Stampede has come to be with the long-standing Manitoba Stampede. A pro-rodeo event on the Canadian Tour circuit, the Manitoba Stampede stars some of the top names in bull riding, bronco-busting, tie-down roping, bareback riding and steer wrestling circles. Add dairy shows, light and heavy horse shows, betsy bingo and a Youth Stars of Manitoba Talent Competition, and this a great event for the whole family. Expert tip for parent road trippers: Start your day by fuelling up at the St. Norbert's Farmers' Market with snacks and fresh fruit and veggies for the trip to Morris. The kids always love that part!

Interstellar Rodeo, Aug. 12-14

This is the second year of Interstellar Rodeo and again it takes place at The Forks. We took the whole family last year, and the kids are still talking about it. Children 12 and under are free, a bonus for your family bank account. To get to the festival site, we hopped on a water taxi just off Wellington Crescent in the fading light of a prairie summer evening and made our way to The Forks without worrying about parking. This music festival in the heart of downtown Winnipeg is all about what's great, what's hot and what's next in contemporary roots music and beyond. If you want to go to a music festival and still sleep in your own bed that night, this event is right up your alley.

Morden Corn and Apple Festival, Aug. 26-28

You had me at apple. There's plenty of cheerful hospitality, good food, wholesome entertainment and all in a relaxing atmosphere; the Morden Corn and Apple Festival is a family event and a great way to wind down the summer.  This free end-of-summer and harvest celebration offers stage entertainment, children's events, a parade, shuttle bus service and parking. One more thing: make sure to leave room for apple pie!

Susie Erjavec Parker is a Winnipeg resident who publishes a local blog winnipegmom.ca. Susie wrote this article for the on-going CBC Manitoba Summer Photo Contest, which is devoted to highlighting unique, entertaining and lesser-known activities to enjoy in Manitoba this summer.