The Westman Multicultural Festival is returning to Brandon next month and those of us who love the sights, sounds and scents of incredible foods of other countries and cultures are excited to visit the pavilions!
The Westman Multicultural Society brought a summer version of the festival to the Riverbank Discovery Centre last July and were overwhelmed by the number of people who participated, bringing in between 5,000-6,000 people to the Discovery Centre grounds!
"To get the ball rolling we only had it for only one day at the Riverbank Discovery Centre," explains Gautam Srivastava, secretary for the executive of the Westman Multicultural Society. "We actually haven't had a multicultural winter festival since 2020, and we're very excited to bring it back!"
The greatest challenge for the organizing committee wasn't having an array of cultures to participate, it was trying to secure a location for each of the pavilions as there were many activities taking place at the same time such as weddings and gatherings. In 2019 they had 11 different countries represented at that year's multicultural festival! The committee is working to get those numbers back for 2025.
The six countries being represented this year are: India, Ukraine, Mauritius, Philippines, Mexico, and El Salvador. Three of the six pavilions will be open for 2 of the 3 days due to this very dilemma, the Thursday was already booked at those locations.
Three pavilions will be open from February 8-10, and three will be open February 9 & 10. The kick-off ceremony to the event will take place Thursday, February 8th at the El Salvador pavilion.
"We are really excited to get going again," shares Srivastava. "What people can expect from the pavilions this year is the usual; food, entertainment, and due to the push from our provincial and federal government to make our multicultural offerings more interactive, most of the pavilions will have interactive events or items on display," he explains.
For example, audience members might be invited to join the dancers on stage to learn a few new steps! Displays of that specific country's artifacts could be presented in such a way that attendees can actually hold them and study them. Cultural clothing, music, foods and more will be seen at each of the pavilions.
Please listen to Gautam Srivastava as he shares what one hands-on interactive experience, they have given their audiences in the past below!
"So, things like that so people can engage with the culture, rather than just witness it," adds Srivastava. "I think that's key for members of our community to better understand and get acquainted with the diverse cultures that we have available to us here in Westman."
The Westman Multicultural Festival originally started as the Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival in 2004, when former Brandon mayor Dave Burgess was in his first term as mayor of Brandon.