Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Welcome to the 'Peg!

Here are just a few things visitors should know about our humble but proud Prairie town

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Mayor Sam Katz


Mayor Sam Katz Photo Store

If you're a music-industry professional, somewhat recognizable Canadian musician or a travelling consort of either one, you may find yourself in Winnipeg this weekend.

Congratulations. Thanks to the Juno Awards, you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of a city unlike any other in Canada.

This is no idle boast. It is, in fact, a humblebrag. Winnipeg is not just a flat, cold, windy city built in the middle of a flood plain.

It's a quirky, flat, cold, windy city built in the middle of a flood plain -- and it's extremely proud of its subtle weirdness.

To fully appreciate the meteorological wonders of Winnipeg, come back in January. In the meantime, here's what you need to know about this city if you wish to get the most out of the next few days -- whether you're visiting or have lived here all your life:

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1. The mayor is not on crack

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz is a teetotaller. If you're from Toronto, you may be unaccustomed to spending a weekend in a city without daily coverage of the antics of an intoxicated elected official.

But according to the most recent poll, Winnipeg's mayor enjoys the support of a mere 12 per cent of voters, which makes him far less popular than Rob Ford is in Toronto.

You may conclude Winnipeggers are more engaged in municipal politics. This would be incorrect: We're simply way less forgiving than the gentle folk of southern Ontario.

2. Violence is part of our heritage

UNLIKE every other province in Canada, Manitoba was created out of an act of violence: the Red River Resistance of 1869-70. We celebrate this every February, during a holiday called Louis Riel Day.

Winnipeg's first mayor, Francis Evans Cornish, was a violent, drunk racist. Cornish made Frank Underwood look like Naheed Nenshi. So we named a library, a street and a game hen after him.

Then in 1919, Winnipeg was the site of the largest workers' uprising in North America north of the Mexico-U.S. border. The General Strike resulted in one death and the toppling of a streetcar. Your limousine should be safe, however.

3. Kubasa may arrive with breakfast

Winnipeg has a large and robust Ukrainian community. The much smaller Russian community has been oddly quiet during recent weeks.

Assuming you wake before noon, you may encounter perogies and garlic sausage on your breakfast menu. Do not be afraid.

When offered a choice of perogies, choose boiled or pan-fried but never deep-fried. When offered a choice of bread, choose rye. The same goes for your choice of beverage.

A Slavic diet will provide all the calories you require to withstand the sub-Arctic environment, should you dare to venture outside.

4. You may not be able to go outside

This is not a positive. Downtown Winnipeg features a maze-like series of overhead and subterranean passages known as the "weather-protected walkway system."

This system was created in the 1970s by demonic city officials who hated the idea of pedestrian activity and all the life human beings are capable of bringing to the streetscape.

Once inside the walkway system, you will begin to develop an aversion to fresh air, not to mention an insatiable craving for food-court sushi.

Should you manage to resist the siren call of the walkways, please be aware you cannot cross at Portage and Main on foot.

If you are staying at the Fairmont and wish to visit the MTS Centre without shuffling underground, an option is to take a one-hour flight south to Minneapolis and drive eight hours north. Travel agents are standing by.

5. Please do not fish or bathe in the potholes

On your way to and from Richardson International Airport, completed in 2011 at a cost of $672 million, you may encounter one or 37,000 potholes.

If you find yourself within a pothole, do not panic. You are safe inside your vehicle. Attempting to climb out of your pothole is not advised, unless you have experience using rope. If mobile phone service is not be available at the bottom of your pothole, the combustion of a flammable material may be used to create an effective smoke signal.

Creating such signals in your hotel room, however, is not advised. Manitoba's No. 3 cash crop may only be consumed outdoors or in the presence of the mayor of Toronto.

6. Do not diss the city

In case you haven't gathered by now, Winnipeggers can make fun of themselves. Winnipeggers love making fun of themselves. The official city motto is Unum Cum Sui Deprecandum, or "One with a penchant for self-deprecation."

But if YOU make fun of Winnipeg, the locals will turn on you faster than a national TV audience abandons an awards show during a commercial break.

We will defend our weird little city with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. Unless you buy us a drink. Then we're cool.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2014 A1


Updated on Friday, March 28, 2014 at 7:02 AM CDT: Corrects typos, adds photos

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


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