'Exceptional comeback': Folklorama opens 2nd week of pavilions following pandemic pause

Winnipeg's biggest cultural festival is in the middle of in-person festivities for the first time since 2019 — a comeback that Folklarama’s executive director calls “exceptional.”

Nearly three thousand volunteers are aiding festivities, executive director says

A crowd watches a Folklorama performance at the festival's kick-off event at Assiniboine Park on July 23. The festival made a full comeback this year, following a 2-year pandemic hiatus. (Kevin Nepitabo/CBC)

Winnipeg's biggest cultural festival is in the middle of in-person festivities for the first time since 2019 — a comeback that Folklarama's executive director calls "exceptional."

Folklorama began in 1970 as a celebration of Manitoba's centennial, and held virtual events in lieu of the two-week festival in 2020 and 2021. Week one of the festival wrapped up last night, and twelve new pavilions showcasing Canada's multiculturalism will be featured in week two.

"It felt almost like we didn't miss a beat, despite the fact that we had a two-year void," said Teresa Cotroneo, executive director of Folklarama, in an interview with Radio-Canada.

"It felt like we were right back there, back in 2019."

Revenues made within each pavilion stay in those communities, Cotroneo said, which is a big deal after the pandemic put a pause on the in-person festival.

Cotroneo said there were about 3,000 volunteers aiding the festival this year. She asked attendees to be patient and kind to the people who donated their time.

Overall, week one of Folklarama saw robust crowds with a joy to be able to share culture again, Cotroneo said.

Each pavilion visit was a reminder of why Folklarama exists and why they continue to offer programming on a year-round basis, she said.

'Bouncing back': Punjab pavilion

"I take part because I strongly feel that we should not forget our roots, and we should bring all the good things into the cultural mosaic of Canada," said Sona Singh in an interview with CBC Manitoba's Weekend Morning Show guest host Bryce Hoye.

Singh took part in the Punjab pavilion during week one of the festival, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary at Folklarama. She said it has been one of the top pavilions at the festival over the last 10 years.

The return of the pavilion honours "the Punjabi spirit of bouncing back from adversity," Singh said. Her favourite part of the pavilion is seeing happy faces dancing and eating, she said.

Singh's family and children gained a lot from the pavilion, she said, as they were able to hold on to their connection to their culture.

Cross-cultural relationships are often formed at the festival, according to Singh, and visitors flock to the pavilion from across Canada and even the United States.

"They just see this beautiful collection of things: food, dances, dresses. It's all lively and exuberant."

With files from Patrick Foucault and Bryce Hoye