Folklorama is a testament to Manitoba’s diversity. The first Folklorama in 1970 was intended as a one-time event, but the desire to see more communities represented kept the festival going to this day. The fact that only five of the original 1970 pavilions are still participating shows how much our population has changed and grown in the past five decades.
Folklorama’s executive director Debra Zoerb says those changes are reflected in the sheer enormity of the festival, which relies on over 20,000 volunteers to run.
“There aren’t any pavilions making their first appearance at Folklorama this year,” Zoerb explains, “but we do have pavilions who weren’t there last year. Hosting a pavilion is an immense amount of work for cultural communities, so some have chosen to alternate the years they participate. So we have the Argentina, Mexican, Chile Lindo and Chinese pavilions coming back this year.”
Those add to the total of 45 pavilions, each representing different cultural communities within the province. All pavilions include food and beverage, as well as three shows a night. The shows can be dances, performances, or some other cultural display.
Zoerb says that the richness of the cultural communities participating is what has kept the festival so fresh for 46 years.
“Communities are really good at knowing which aspects of their shared culture will become the popular statements,” Zoerb explains. “There will always be perogies at the Ukrainian pavilion, for example. But they’re also always looking for new aspects to share, whether it’s a new show, a new menu item, or a different theme from their culture throughout the pavilion.”