Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Carnaval comes to East Exchange

Flourishing food culture on display

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The aroma of pig roasting on a spit and the sound of samba music filled the air of Winnipeg's East Exchange District Saturday. One block of Bannatyne Street was closed from Waterfront Drive to Rorie Street for the historic neighbourhood's first Carnaval festival.

"We hope it's the first of many to come," said organizer Alejandro Mora who owns the Deseo Bistro.

The idea for the Latin American-themed street festival came from Hermanos restaurant owner Noel Bernier, he said. Restaurant and bar owners on the street offered their wares as Latin American musicians and dancers performed.

"In the future we want to have a parade, to get the carnaval feel," he said. They want to include musical acts that performed indoors at Folklorama.

"This is an outdoor festival," said Mora who came to Canada from Nicaragua 23 years ago.

"I knew one word -- 'Hello,' " recalled Mora, who was nine at the time.

"Everyone kept saying 'hi' to me -- what is 'hi?' I didn't know."

Saturday night he was saying hello to people from all over Winnipeg and outlying communities visiting the East Exchange.

Daria and Jim McLean came from Tuxedo and were waiting for the roast pig to be ready.

"This is so exciting," said Daria, seated across from Jim at a table on Bannatyne Avenue. "We're absolutely enjoying waiting for our dinner."

Charlotte Summerly came from Birds Hill with her husband and another couple from Dugald.

"We never used to do stuff," she said milling around the historic district. "We're retired so we can do more now."

Ed and Leisa Mendez came from Westwood to the street festival.

The couple arrived in Canada from El Salvador 22 years ago and were looking forward to sampling some familiar food and culture.

The event was a kind of grand opening for Corrientes Pizzeria and vegan burger joint Boon Burger's second location, which recently opened in the area. Carnival Brazilian BBQ -- a steak place -- is opening up down the street later this fall, said Mora.

For the organizers, the two-day event that ended Saturday was intended to bring people to the area with a flourishing food culture.

"This is not a money-maker," said Mora. "This is about raising awareness of the cultures involved and the revitalization of the East Exchange."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 26, 2012 A7

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