'Expose that gem': Brewery, ski hill among Manitoba places spotlighted with new Star Attraction designations

Manitoba has a lot to see and do but some of those things slip under the radar or are just not easy to find. That's why the province is putting them in the spotlight — or, more appropriately, starlight.
Star Attractions are highlighted by road signs across the province. (Government of Manitoba)

Manitoba has a lot to see and do but some of those things slip under the radar or are just not easy to find. That's why the province is putting them in the spotlight — or, more appropriately, starlight.

Earlier this week, the provincial government designated seven new Star Attractions — a designation which not only heightens the profile of those attractions but comes with marketing support from Travel Manitoba, along with inclusion in tourism guides and the addition of those familiar blue highway signs, with the swooping star logo, to point people in the right direction.

For Rick Brownlee, the designation means people will know where to check out some of Manitoba's most valued sports heritage, including the original Jets' Avco World Trophy.

The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum can be found inside the Sport for Life Centre on Pacific Avenue, in the East Exchange area. (Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

"A lot of people simply just didn't know where we were so this will definitely help that," said Brownlee, executive director for the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in Winnipeg.

"The common thing I hear is 'I didn't know this was here. What a gem.'"

The museum started in a tucked-away spot inside the Johnston Terminal at The Forks in 1993, before bouncing to a space inside the Bay downtown and finally landing at its 3,000-square-foot facility inside the Sport for Life Centre on Pacific Avenue, in the East Exchange area, in 2012. 

While there's no extra funding that comes with the Star Attractions designation, the extra public awareness will hopefully translate into more revenue streams, said Brownlee.

"We're trying to expose that gem," he said.

In addition to the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, the latest Star Attractions include:

  • Island Park, Portage La Prairie.
  • Living Prairie Museum, Winnipeg.
  • Flin Flon Station Museum, Flin Flon.
  • Farmery Estate Brewery, Neepawa.
  • Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes, Falcon Beach.
  • Sand Hills Casino, Carberry.

With those, Manitoba now has 63 designations that include museums, historical sites, theatres, science centres, zoos, cultural centres, parks and even some events.

Excitement brewing at Farmery

A brewery on a farm in rural Manitoba is another one of the new stars. One of Farmery Estate Brewery's owners, Lawrence Warwaruk, says it's "fantastic."

"It's recognition for all the hard work that we've put in establishing this unique craft beer concept," said Warwaruk, who runs Farmery with his brother, Chris.

Farmery owners Lawrence, left, and Chris Warwaruk brew their beer on a farm in Neepawa, where they also grow everything that goes into making the beer. (Farmery Brewery)

Everything that goes into making their beer is grown on the farm in Neepawa.

"Hopefully, when people are travelling down the road, they will be encouraged to stop and see what we're doing out here," Warwaruk said, adding visitors can tour the agricultural and brewing process — and taste some samples.

Big fun at little ski hill

Caleigh Christie, administrative manager at Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes, near Falcon Lake, called the designation for the ski resort "a huge honour."

The dance hall and chalet at Falcon Ridge ski hill. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

"It's fantastic news," she added, describing the slopes as being on "a little Manitoba ski hill" that offers "a whole lot of fun."

Falcon Ridge's elevation is 2,047 inches, not feet, Christie said, adding it sounds more impressive that way. For those interested in the measurement in feet, the number is about 170 (51 metres, if you prefer to think metric).

In addition to the ski runs, there is also a slope dedicated to a tube run. In the off-season, Falcon Ridge offers hiking trails. "In the last few years we've really been developing our mountain bike trail here," said Christie.

"They're well known across the province for being very technical — lots of rocks and roots, and we've added a lot of wooden features like wall rides and jumps and stuff."

Digging into Flin Flon's history

Housed in a former Canadian National Railway Station, Flin Flon's Station Museum is another attraction getting some new attention from the Star Attraction designation.

Flin Flon Station Museum contains artifacts dating back to the 1920s, collected from mining, transportation, and cultural sources. (City of Flin Flon)

"It feels great," said Mark Kolt, former CAO for the city. "The Station Museum is the repository for a lot of fond memories of the community."

Originally built in 1934, the museum contains artifacts dating back to the 1920s, collected from mining, transportation, and cultural sources, including a diving suit used during the development of the Island Falls power station.

"There are a variety of things but the focus of the museum has been increasingly on the mining history, which is, of course, the reason Flin Flon exists," Kolt said.

So there is memorabilia from the early pioneers and of course, just outside the facility is a statue of the city's namesake, Josiah Flintabbatey  Flonatin — a prospector in the novel The Sunless City, written by J. E. Preston Muddock in 1905.

It was a book being read by Thomas Creighton, a prospector exploring in the area of what would later become the mining town.

You can find a full list of Manitoba's Star Attractions at the Travel Manitoba website.


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.

With files from Rignam Wangkhang