The Forks is always one of the places that I have on my list when I return home to Winnipeg to visit family and friends.
I was born and grew up in Winnipeg, but now I live in the United States -- first in Knoxville, Tenn., then in the Chicago suburbs.
When I lived in Knoxville, I ran a store in a retail space that could only strive to be what our gathering place in Winnipeg is.
I discussed the success of The Forks Market with the management and other retailers there and they absolutely loved everything about it -- the concept, atmosphere and architecture both inside and out. They even tried to incorporate some of my ideas.
The multitude of food, culture and retail all makes The Forks such a wonderful meeting place.
You can choose to be social or just enjoy a relaxing day on your own. You can learn something new, be exposed to different cultures and music, and shop for eclectic treasures.
I have many fond memories of The Forks -- and one of the them includes my first job working at a produce market and gift store there.
I had the privilege of meeting some wonderful people that have become lifelong friends. I always looked forward to the stories I would hear (sometimes involuntarily, but entertaining nonetheless!) from local people as well as tourists.
My family moved to Osborne Village when I was 15, and I remember sunny mornings in all of the seasons as I walked down the river path to the market. Sometimes my parents, who still live in the Village, would accompany me.
I remember meeting up with relatives and friends at The Forks. Some of them have now passed on. Others I am not able to see often enough now that I live in the U.S.
The meetings usually consisted of wandering aimlessly and stress-free, watching the boats on the water, enjoying the fresh air or grabbing a cup of coffee, a leisurely breakfast, lunch or dinner. We'd talk, laugh, gripe or sometimes just remain silent, taking in what was going on around us.
The Forks can be enjoyed through all of the seasons because of its versatility and location. When I mention to people the skating, dancing, exhibitions, entertainment, the restaurant on the ice, the outdoor patios, the festivals and holidays we celebrate there, indoors and out, they are amazed. My American friends are in awe of the use we get out of the entire area despite the season or the weather.
I always suggest The Forks to any potential tourists as it gives them a taste of what the city has to offer.
I realize not everyone feels the same way about The Forks -- it definitely has had its hiccups throughout the years.
But generally speaking, The Forks Market is doing something right and its longevity indicates that. We all, both pessimists and optimists, just need to appreciate what a real gem Winnipeg has.
After all, the rest of the world, from my experience, certainly does.
Liza has been living in the United States for seven years. She has a small business catering to animals and she and her husband share their home with four fabulous rescue dogs.
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