"We joke about the perogies, but it is actually true," says Peter Capar Sr., president of the community hall's board of directors since 1960.
"Our babas (grandmothers) have been busy in their kitchens during a decade of fund-raising."
Their efforts paid off last month when the Ukrainian community's residents turned the sod for the 9,600 square-foot hall that is to be completed in the spring of 2004.
To sit on seven acres on PR 231 about 16 kilometres west of Gimli, the new building will replace the community's old hall, which has been refurbished and expanded seven times since 1921.
The old hall will be demolished to serve as a parking lot for its bigger and better successor next door.
"The old hall was getting beyond repair," says Peter Capar Jr., chairman of the hall building committee.
"We started planning for a new one in 1993 and funds have been raised over the years from a variety of sources.
"Besides the perogy sales, these include bingos, socials, private donations and grants from the federal and provincial governments."
Construction of the hall is a major achievement for Fraserwood, which has only 279 listings in the provincial phone book. Settled by Ukrainian, Polish and German farmers in the early 1900s, the community endured hard times after Premier Duff Roblin consolidated Manitoba's one room schools in the 1960s.
Capar Sr. says when Fraserwood lost its small school, two local stores closed as a direct result.
He personally witnessed this bit of history because he was raised in the nearby hamlet of Meleb and began teaching in Fraserwood in 1955.
Capar Sr. went on to teach in the regional Evergreen School Division and capped his career by chairing the Evergreen board of trustees in the early 1990s.
"Fraserwood did experience a decline, but we're holding our own these days," he says. "This is partly because new ownership has sparked more activity at our hotel-restaurant."
While the school and stores have come and gone, the one constant has been the Fraserwood hall, whose seldom-used official name is The Ukrainian National Peoples' Home of Taras Shevchenko.
Originally the size of a home, it opened in the 1900s as a library-reading association where immigrants would gather for readings of newspapers and books, including the works of the famed Ukrainian poet Shevchenko.
"The community was called Kreuzburg until anti-German sentiment brought about a name change during the First World War," Capar Sr. says.
"It was rechristened by Mr. Wood, a local storekeeper and postmaster who combined his own name with Fraser, which was his wife's maiden name."
The reading association evolved into a social hall in the early 1920s and the new and larger version will ensure that Fraserwood remains on the map.
According to Capar Jr., the new hall will have seating for 450 people and room for 502 before the doors have to be closed due to fire regulations. The main hall has been designed with a collapsible wall so it can be divided in two for separate functions with 230 and 130 guests respectively.
As well, there will be a smaller conference and meeting room for 30 people, plus such amenities as a 600 square foot screened verandah, cathedral ceilings, a large hardwood dance floor, a kitchen and storage space.
Another major component will be a state-of-the-art, geo-thermal heating and cooling system with one of the highest energy-efficiency ratings in rural Manitoba.
All this is really something for a community hall that only has about 65 members.
"The hall is for the region, not just for Fraserwood," says Capar Jr., a vocational arts teacher at Winnipeg's Glenlawn Collegiate and son of the hall president.
"We are the centre of a hub that should draw social functions and conferences from nearby bigger communities such as Gimli, Teulon and Arborg.
Already getting bookings
"We're just getting started, but we've already had calls from people who want to book the hall for weddings next summer."
The late August sod turning was performed by Capar Sr. and veteran hall members Walter Dudrak and Eileen Humeny, who have been instrumental in its development over the years.
After the formalities, members and dignitaries moved into the old hall for coffee, lunch and introduction of the building committee, composed of Capar Jr., David Pomarenski, David Yablonski, Gary Kuz and Melvin Zalewich.
Construction will start soon under the direction of Milestone Project Management of Winnipeg, using plans prepared by Prairie Architects.
"This project signifies a lot of hard work by our community," Capar Jr. says. "We've raised about three-quarters of the construction cost and fundraising will continue during the winter."
Although Fraserwood residents bear no ill will to their neighbours, the new hall may prosper due to Gimli's lack of a major entertainment venue and a summer fire that destroyed Arborg's hall.
"If we can obtain two or three functions a week from these communities until they get comparable facilities, we should be able to retire our mortgage in no time," Capar Sr. says.