Manitoba

'This is our thing': Winnipeg's Folklorama kicks off 50th year

Winnipeg's Folklorama has been around for 50 years now, but it never gets old. That’s the view of Teresa Cotroneo, who’s marking her third decade of being involved with the event — billed as the world’s largest and longest-running multicultural festival of its kind.
An undated archival photo shows dancers at Folklorama's Budapest pavilion. The festival is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. (Folklorama )
Winnipeg's Folklorama has been around for 50 years now, but it never gets old.

That's the view of Teresa Cotroneo, who's marking her third decade of being involved with the event — billed as the world's largest and longest-running multicultural festival of its kind.

"It speaks to people's hearts," Cotroneo, Folklorama's current executive director, told CBC hours before the annual two-week long festival got underway Sunday evening.

"It makes people proud that this is something that's happening here in the local community — that this is our thing, and we can be this in a world that has become more and more divisive," she said.
Live music has always been a large draw for Folklorama. (Folklorama)

Folklorama began in 1970 as a one-time, week-long event to help celebrate Manitoba's centennial.

It was so well-received it turned into the annual event it is today, growing from 21 pavilions to 45 around the city this year.

In 2018 there were more than 445,000 visits to Folklorama pavilions, according to its most recent annual report.

Cotroneo said her first experiences with the festival came at age 12, as a dancer for the now-defunct Sicilian pavilion.
The multicultural festival has grown from 21 pavilions in 1970 to 45 this year. (Folklorama )

Taking part showed her she could be proud of her cultural heritage and values and sharing them with others.

The pavilion "felt like home," she said. "I didn't have a lot of quote-unquote Italian kids living where I was growing up."

Nowadays, Cotroneo said she doesn't have to go far to hear from people about how Folklorama has affected them or changed their lives in a positive way.

"My story is really a lot of stories," she said.

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