Town & Country

July 2014

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Country Town & MANITOBA Editor: Pat St. Germain Saturday, July 26, 2014 Of the 125 years Islendingadagurinn has been celebrated, Cameron Arnason has seen more than half. I n fact, this year's Icelandic Festival of Manitoba president has only missed the annual event once in his lifetime, and he has a pretty good excuse: when Festival Monday fell on Aug. 7, 1950, he was busy being born. Now Arnason and the rest of the organizers are gearing up for an extra-special weekend in Gimli from Aug. 1-4, with enhanced programming to mark 125 years of gobbling up vinarterta, singing Icelandic folk songs and coaching visitors to pronounce Islendingadagurinn. "If you want to be infected with excitement and friendliness, this is the place to be. There is always so much going on in town over the weekend and this year it will be better than ever," says Arnason, whose earliest festival memory is of running in the kids' races. "This weekend has always been the focal point of the Icelandic community, and it's what everybody looks forward to the whole year. It's a chance to get together and speak a little Icelandic, partake in the Icelandic food, and reminisce about the old heroes and the old days." The anniversary could attract up to 70,000 people, Arnason predicts. New events include a show of unique Icelandic horses and a fashion show, along with perennial favourites such as the parade, concerts, a midway, cultural exhibits and shows, fireworks, sports and games. The always-entertaining Islendingadunk is back, as is Fris-Nok, a Frisbee-and- beer-bottle game invented by Arnason himself 37 years ago. Of course the ever-popular Prairie Vikings will set up camp and demonstrate the traditional Viking way of life, with daily battle re-enactments. The 125th anniversary actually kicked off in January, when the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra premiered Eighteen Hundred and Seventy-Five, a commissioned piece by Iceland's Valgeir Sigurdsson commemorating the wave of immigration to Gimli that year. The residents of New Iceland began celebrating their heritage a few years after 1875, with Islendingadagurinn held every year since 1890 – first in Winnipeg, then in Gimli since 1932. It's believed to be the second- oldest continuous ethnic festival in North America. Special anniversary initiatives include a legacy project to redevelop the waterfront area surrounding Gimli's famous Viking statue. It will be a lush green space with accessible pathways, trees and shrubs, a water feature, bridge and benches, with paving stones and other elements inscribed with names of project donors, Arnason says. "It's going to be beautiful, and something we can celebrate together with everyone who has been so supportive," he says, adding that much of the space is being generously turned over to the park by the Betel Personal Care Home's foundation, which owns the land. Dubbed Viking Park but open to naming rights to help raise funds, the space will be ready in 2017 to coincide with Canada's 150th birthday. During this year's festival, a limestone rune inscribed with a commemoration of the 125th anniversary will be installed in the park, with help from Iceland's minister of foreign affairs, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson. The festivities will continue into the fall, By Sherry Kaniuga for the Free Press INSIDE Tea ParTy McLEod HouSE 4 EvoLution dancE 7 arTs MoveMenT PrairiE HELicoPtErS 5 Flying HigH Vikings Party On Icelandic Festival celebrates its 125th anniversary Continued on page 3 Prairie Vikings (top) are always part of the fun. The waterfront area surrounding Gimli's iconic Viking statue is being redeveloped as part of an anniversary legacy project. Ifyou'relookingforafunweekendactivityoralongerprojectthatwilladdvalue-added spaceorstoragetoyouryardorhome,Home'sBackyardProjectsareforyou.Withhundreds ofprojectideasinstore,yourArborgHomeHardwareBuildingCentrewillhelpyoudesign, buildanddecorateyournewdeck,fence,gazeboorotheroutdoorliving&storagespace. BACKYARD PROJECTS

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