Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A birthday party with cake snakes

Thousands turn up at free celebration of Manitoba's 143rd year as a province

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Turns out, Manitobans can have their cake on their 143rd birthday and eat it, too.

A cake made of snakes, no less, in honour of the Narcisse snake pits -- all part of the Manitoba Day celebrations Saturday at the Manitoba Museum.

Also part of the birthday party -- Manitoba was officially declared a province on May 12, 1870 -- was an exhibit commemorating 275 years of French presence in the area. It included artifacts and an exhibition featuring Fort Rouge, the first European structure built in the province, and explorer and fur trader Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La V©rendrye.

'For us, today is making them (youth) feel proud about Manitoba. They hear a lot about the grass being greener somewhere else'

-- Manitoba Museum's Javier Schwersensky

"We found out a couple of years ago that most people didn't know the date or the importance of (Manitoba joining Confederation)," said Javier Schwersensky, the museum's director of marketing, sales and programs. "I'm biased, but we're a great province. We should celebrate that."

Although the Manitoba Museum has been hosting the province's birthday party for several years, this marked the first Cake-itoba! The Great Manitoba Day Cake-off, which featured four birthday-themed cakes. Entries were from All About Cakes, High Tea Bakery, All Seasons Catering and Dolce Bakery.

The winner, created by High Tea Bakery, featured a nest of intertwined snakes made from frosting on top.

All entries, snakes included, were promptly gobbled up by some of the 3,000 visitors who attended the free festivities at the museum, the Planetarium and Science Gallery. The event was sponsored by the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corp., and included a booth with Manitoba rower and Olympic silver medallist Janine Hanson, who signed autographs.

Schwersensky said up to 75 per cent of the visitors were families, most bringing young children. "For us, today is making them (youth) feel proud about Manitoba," he said. "They hear a lot about the grass being greener somewhere else."

Besides the cake, a youngster could get tips from a costumed voyageur on how to load a musket or get a history lesson on La V©rendrye or Louis Riel or get a picture taken with Hanson.

There were booths representing the Winnipeg Museum board, Heritage Winnipeg, the Manitoba Archeological Society, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Freeze Frame, a media arts festival for youth.

"We tried to not only show Manitoba's past, but also its present," Schwersensky said, "and expose people to all the community organizations that do great work in arts, culture and heritage."

Claudette LeClerk, CEO of the Manitoba Museum, said the annual birthday party will continue with a long-term goal for the 150th celebration.

"By 2020, we want the common man or woman on the street who, when asked, will know that Manitoba Day is May 12th," she said.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2013 A4

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