August: Folklorama: A Celebration of Diversity

Summer has families and communities come together to enjoy the weather and connect with each other. Some prefer to go to the beach, cottage, go camping, picnic, shopping or just enjoying the long daylight in outdoor bars and restaurants.

Although we are in the middle of summer, there are lots of things to do and places to visit for those who prefer to stay in the city, one of this is the annual Folklorama Festival. Now on its 49th year, Folklorama has gone a long way. I had the chance to interview Teresa Cotroneo, Acting Executive Director, who shared the following interesting information about the festival.

  • What’s the latest with Folklorama?We are very excited that this year, for the first time in Folklorama’s 49 year history, our guests can pre-purchase tickets online, book folklorama.ca to all the pavilions, any dates, any show time that they wish to attend in advance up to an hour before the beginning of each show. This will really change the way people go to Folklorama.  The Filipino community will have one pavilion this year, Pearl of the Orient and they will be in a new location this year, Petrus Hall. It is important to check out the travel guide for all the updated venues.

 

    1. In terms of presentations, we have 44 pavilions participating this year over the 2 weeks of the festival. There are going to be 23 in week 1 and 21 in week 2. We are very pleased to welcome a new El Salvador and a new Métis Pavilion. Additionally, we have some of our communities that alternate year. Coming back after a couple of years are the Africa/Caribbean, Argentina “Tango”, Chinese and Romania.
    2. We had many people say throughout the year that lines are long and they were never guaranteed to get into a show. That mitigates all of those issues by booking in advance and you know that you’ll get in. That is our huge roll-out this year that we are very excited about.
    3.  
  • Can you provide us with some highlights of the history of Folklorama?

 

The festival itself began as a one-time event in celebration of Manitoba’s centennial way back in 1970. There was a group of individuals who were community-minded who want to put together something to celebrate what it meant to be Manitoban or Canadian through the expression of their heritage.

They were very active group of people within their ethno-cultural communities and passions about sharing their culture with others. The event was held in 1970. There were originally 21 communities that participated and it was so well-received that they kept doing it and here we are in year 49.

The Filipino Pavilion was one of the early communities that joined. There are lot of founders from different communities through the years who have participated then moved to different organizations. There’s a lot of history, but we basically focus on communities that participate every year since 1970 and these are the German, Greek, Scandinavian and Ukrainian-Kyiv.

  • Who are the founders of Folklorama? Who are the pioneer communities that formed Folklorama?We would say that they were the individuals from the original 21 communities. There are some faces that are around to date. We prefer not to mention them specifically so as not to miss anybody, but we usually refer back to the original 21 communities and those 4 communities that participate every year.

 

  • How does Folklorama help in the empowerment of ethnic communities?From my experience with the organization and the community level, I can say that we received feedback that Folklorama was truly an anchor in the development and ongoing growth of our communities. There are communities that have been able to purchase their own properties, in view part of the revenues made from the festival as well as some of the opportunities that they have for their performing groups to perform through our talent division throughout the year, under our talent and teachings program. It allowed communities to build and grow and adapt as their own needs change, as new generation of Canadians are born.
  • A lot of communities at minimum would come together once a year to plan and execute a pavilion and through that, they would not only stay connected with each other and their heritage, but also new initiative and opportunities were created for their own programming that they develop through the year.

 

  • What are Folklorama’s plans in the future?We continue to evolve, always around our mission of celebrating diversity, promoting cultural understanding. That is the underpinning of everything that we do. It will be continued to be reflected through the festival and also in increasing awareness of the other 3 business divisions that were made possible because of the success of the festival, which are talent, teaching and travel.

 

  • As a member of the Italian community, do you have any message to our readers?I was involved with Folklorama at a very young age (12 years old). I’ve been directly involved as a performer, volunteer and now on the corporate side for 29 years. I do really live and breathe what the festival means, what the organization means as a first generation Canadian who has strong tie to my country of origin, but also has the strong desire to share with other cultures and what it means to be Canadian. It reflects what our Canadian heritage means because we are a country of immigrants and what is Canadian is truly a part of each of us and Folklorama is an opportunity to really celebrate that. It mirrors that whole of Canada, really what it means to be Canadian.  

 

  1. It is no wonder that Folklorama has been dubbed as Canada’s Largest and Longest Running Multicultural Festival, and will continue to be with the support of the different communities and volunteers. This year’s Folklorama is slated from August 5 to 18. For more information, visit their website: www.folklorama.ca.
  2. I truly feel that there is magic around the time of the festival, the city becomes alive and it is nice to be with people enjoying each other’s culture. It just feels like everyone is in unison. It is really a special time.
  3. For myself, being involved in the organization has been a passion throughout my life and feel very blessed and humbled to be in this end of things at this point. Folklorama is a special and nostalgic event. It brings us back to where we came from, where our heritage came from.

July: Elizabeth Diaz Gallo: A Teacher’s Journey