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The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba 2012

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

In Iceland, it is called “Islendingadagurinn” but in Canada, it is the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba.  As far as historians have determined, this is considered the 2nd oldest and continuous North American ethnic festival.  The only other festival on record that is older is an Irish festival that is held in Montreal.  The first Icelandic Festival of its kind was held in 1874 in the city of Milwaukee, WI while the first one held in Manitoba occurred 16 years later in the city of Winnipeg.  Since 1932, it takes place in Gimli.

photo by gurdonark

The very first Icelandic celebration in North America occurred on the 2nd of August in 1874 and that has been the starting date ever since.  It was also the date that a new constitution went into law in Iceland.  Early August was also a convenient time for farmers to pause for celebration as seeding time was over and the fall harvests had not yet begun.  In 1890, we saw the first Icelandic Festival parade take place on Victor Street (formerly Nena Street) in Winnipeg just to the south of the 1st Lutheran Church.


The Infantry School Band led the initial parade and were immediately followed by four men who were all dressed in traditional Icelandic clothing carrying different flags from the home country.  These gentlemen were immediately followed by other men, then teenagers and finally children.  The first day was an inclement affair as a tremendous rainstorm had taken place the evening before leaving most of the streets of Winnipeg mucky and unfit to walk on, hence the use of carriages to keep the women’s clothing from getting muddy.


In the beginning, the Icelandic community had difficulty deciding on both the date and the name for the festival.  July 16th was the first proposed date as this was the day that the first explorers from the home country reached Winnipeg back in 1875.  However, since this date was not significant to Icelanders in the home country, it was felt that this would alienate those Icelanders still living their from any type of celebrating.  The date of August 2nd was finally established as the permanent date in May of 1898.


Without a doubt, you will enjoy seeing all the locals don their Viking garb and live as the ancients did for an entire weekend during the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba.  The numerous cottages, motels, and hotels fill up quickly the closer the event gets, so if you are planning on vacationing in Manitoba and attending the festival, it’s a good idea to start planning now.  You can search online for ticket purchase sites or sit down with a travel agent to make your plans.  One way or the other, be prepared to have a good time when you are there.


Hotels in Manitoba

Keystone Motor Inn in Brandon- roomKeystone Motor Inn -Brandon
Average Price: €55
Average Rating:9.8

Super 8 Brandon Manitoba Cn- roomSuper 8 Brandon Manitoba Cn-Brandon
Average Price: €72
Average Rating: 7

Wescana Inn- roomWescana Inn-The Pas
Average Price: €74
Average Rating: 6

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer will joce

Will Joce is a recent graduate from the London School of Economics who has a morbid fear of working in an office. As well as travelling and writing he has worked in the UK Parliament and as a press monitor. Refusing to follow advice and get a real job he will soon be beginning a Masters degree at St Petersburg State University

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