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Folklorama: the pearl of Manitoba

by Kevin Lamoureux


One of Canada’s greatest strengths is our diversity and we need to better understand the potential economic and social benefits by investing in our ever-changing heritage. Winnipeg’s annual Folklorama celebration, in many ways, displays our diversity, and the more we understand that diversity, the better we will be as a nation.

This time last year we were celebrating Folklorama’s 50th anniversary and I remember the incredible party, with thousands of Winnipeggers and tourists alike enjoying the diversity of music, dances, and foods. Now it’s hard to believe that this year we won’t be holding a festival at all. COVID-19 has changed so much for us.

While it’s sad for us to miss the festival, it’s also given us time to reflect and think about the things we really value. Folklorama needs to be one of those things, and we need to pull together to make sure this tradition continues. Did you know that it’s the largest and longest-running multicultural festival in the world? Every year Folklorama is almost like the year-end recital for dance troupes and musical groups all across Winnipeg. It provides a reason to practice, an end-goal to strive towards, and a motivation for youth to maintain cultural traditions.

The Pearl of the Orient Philippine pavilion has been a pillar of Folklorama for years. Since 1988 I have been attending the pavilion and in many ways it was through the pavilion that I first met many of the good friends that I have today. Over the years I have accompanied many politicians to the Pearl of the Orient including people like Justin Trudeau, Bob Rae and so many others. It has been a place that I often bring people or encourage others to visit. In many ways the Pearl exemplifies what a pavilion should strive to achieve. Literally hundreds of volunteers of all ages, a first class cultural display, incredible performances that often highlight the incredible talents that can be found within the community and a food section that will provide tasty servings to thousands in seven days. I should also mention the bar and the outdoor patio where you will often see people enjoying karaoke. I mentioned hundreds of volunteers and many of them are the people who provide security, stamp passes, clean and more.

Over the years the Pearl of the Orient has also demonstrated how a pavilion can become a broader family with strong healthy relationships between its members. Children that performed years ago now have children of their own performing, and people who first met at the pavilion have gone on to become best friends.

The Pearl of the Orient – and the Nayong Pilipino pavilion in the past – have helped shape the community to what it is today. The impacts they have had on the broader community as a whole are incredible and just can’t be measured.

We should also recognize that Folklorama plays a major role in Manitoba’s economy, generating millions of dollars each year. Its loss would have a real impact on our city and our local businesses. Even more important, it would have a terrible impact on our rich diversity and heritage.

The coronavirus has made 2020 a difficult year for many of our cultural groups. The reality is that many dance troupes, language groups, and even cultural centres are finding it challenging this year and it is important that we continue to show support for them in whatever way we can. Folklorama will always be a critical cultural celebration for our city, province and country. I wish to express to those thousands of volunteers how much I appreciate what they do and I, along with thousands of others, will be looking forward to seeing the pavilions again in 2021.

Kevin Lamoureux is the Member of Parliament for Winnipeg North