For many visitors, residents, organizers and artists at the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba (IFM) in Gimli August 1 to 4, it's as much about community, family, and coming home as it is food, events, and music.
"The festival is often a time when people reconnect with family and friends and celebrate their roots," explains Festival Board Member Kathi Thorarinson-Neal, whose family hosts an annual reunion on Monday. "Although it goes without saying that during Islendingadagurinn, everyone is Icelandic for the weekend!"
This year, the second oldest continuous ethnic festival celebrates its 125th anniversary. What began as a small parade of Icelandic Manitobans in Winnipeg in 1890 now boasts seven different venues in Gimli for the entire August long weekend. Gimli is the largest Icelandic community outside of Iceland and the home of the IFM or Islendingadagurinn since 1932.
To commemorate the anniversary the IFM is creating Viking Park, turning the area around the Viking Statue into a fully accessible, child-friendly green space. Organizers expect to have the project completed in time to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017. Actual Vikings, or at least Viking re-enactors, are to be found in the Viking Village on Harbour Park Hill, where daily demonstrations of warfare and tactics, life skills, fashion and entertainment take place.
Another cultural hotspot at the festival is the Icelandic Culture and Heritage Pavilion in
Gimli Park, featuring displays, traditional food, arts and crafts, photo and history exhibits from local and international groups.
There are also a wide variety of events, too many to list here, most of which are low or no cost and family friendly.
"We try to have entertainment that is accessible to the community as a whole," explains First Vice President Rob Rousseau. "Musically, Friday and Saturday are focused more on the 15 to 40 demographic, while Sunday has always been more of a folk slant."
That folk slant began in 1972, when Len and Karen Vopnfjord organized the first Sunday Folk Festival 42 years ago.
"It was the first stage I ever sang on when I was six with my dad," Lindy Vopnfjord says. "After that year we played the festival every year as a family and my parents and I will be kicking it off again this year with the theme song my dad wrote!"
The "Heavy Matter" and "On My Way Back Home" singer plays the Gimli Park Main Stage on Sunday with another local artist of Icelandic descent, Brooke Palsson, along with The Mariachi Ghost, Elliott Brood, Reuben and the Dark and direct from Iceland, Moses Hightower.
Kor Uppsveita Arnesysla, The Golden Circle Choir, and Sin Fang are the other acts from Iceland appearing at this year's festival.
Bus service to Gimli, which is 100km north of Winnipeg, off of Provincial highways 8 & 9, will be offered from Winnipeg at the Forks Market on Saturday and Sunday. Visit winnipegbeachbus.diyobo.com for details and to purchase tickets.
For more information on the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba please visit icelandicfestival.com.