By Teresa Carey…
Every year the Gimli Ice Festival has a different theme. For the seventh edition, held in Gimli Mar. 3 and 4, “Arts & Ag” with a made in Manitoba emphasis was in the spotlight.
Festival organizers incorporated a number of arts and agriculture events and attractions into the festival experience, along with the usual outdoor offerings of rides, fun winter sports and other activities.
This year, an ice park was set up in front of the Lake Winnipeg Visitor Centre and the Gimli Art Club. Directly in front of the art club, the two large snow sculptures, measuring 15 ft. and 32 ft., respectively, were hard to miss. They were created by well-known artist and sculptor, Ralph Tanchak from Stonewall. Each featured an agriculture-themed carving on one side. The reverse sides were marked off in sections for the annual snow carving competition that was held on Saturday. Over 20 people entered the competition.
The nearby Freeze Outdoor Art Exhibit featured individual art pieces made by students from Dr. George Johnson Middle Years School and Gimli High School. The art all centred around the theme of bees, serving to blend both the arts and agriculture components.
As in previous years, the Gimli Art Club was open to the throngs of children who could let their imaginations run wild with paint and clay in the play area as they waited for their turn to have their faces painted by six of the art club volunteers.
According to Gimli Art Club President, Suzanne Barrow, 186 children had their faces painted, and it was all for free.
“We have done adults. Last year I did a mother and daughter together,” Barrow said.
Across the street, in the Lakeview Resort and Conference Centre ballrooms, a first time ever, arts and crafts show was set up with a variety of arts and ag products for sale. They included everything from tea, honey and baked goods, to painting, pottery and fibre arts, all of it from Manitoba sellers.
Gimli Art Club Vice-President and sculptor, Warren Wenzel, manned a couple of the tables there with artwork made by some of the club members.
“We had some good sales,” he said. “People were buying little things—little paintings, little pottery things.”
Mandy Johnson, of Beach Unique Creations based in Gimli, had a beautiful display of art made with locally sourced found objects, such as beach glass and seeds. Johnson said she has been collecting her materials for over 10 years.
A couple of the agriculture-related sellers there included Tom and Bonnie Borsa of Beachside Farm & Apiaries in Sandy Hook. The couple runs a spray-free and chemical-free farm where they plant their own crops of Sweet Clover, Alsike Clover and Thistle, then harvest and sell the resulting honey.
From a little off the beaten track, was Sandra Brown of Enchanted Grove Alpacas. She displayed a table full of Alpaca wool products from the herd of 30 Suri and Huacaya Alpacas she has raised on her farm near Portage La Prairie.
“We shear them. We show them across North America,” Brown said. “We get our wool processed. When it comes back, we hand dye it and create knit wear from it.”
In all, there were more than a dozen vendors who took part in the Arts & Crafts Show.
Saturday’s events were capped off with the Variety Entertainment Night at Lakeview Resort. Four country music acts played to a full house that night, all of them highly accomplished local musicians, including guitarist/singer Tracy Martin who was also the night’s emcee; Arborg’s Kevin Peters Trio, The Singing Cowboy and Dawn from Fraserwood; and the Interlake’s own Homespun Poets.
The entertainment was actually the last in a Country Music Winter Series, which began last month in the lead up to the festival. It included live country music performances at several venues in Gimli and Winnipeg Beach: Shennanigans, The Ship & Plough and the Aspen Park Recreation Centre.
Other arts activities took place at the New Iceland Heritage Museum as well, including Kids Story Telling.
According to festival organizer Peter Holfeure, next year’s theme will be in celebration of our indigenous culture and heritage.
“We are doing it in very close collaboration with the Riverton & District Friendship Centre,” Holfeure said.
“There will be a 25 ft. Diameter teepee, music and entertainment. It certainly is going to be something Gimli hasn’t seen before,” he said.