Folklorama keeps finding ways to grow.
The 41st edition of the annual multicultural festival had the highest attendance for the past three years, despite a drop in U.S. group tours, organizers say. There were 447,000 visits to 45 pavilions, up 5,000 from just a year ago.
Folklorama saw 122 group tours, one more than a year ago. The only hit the festival took was a drop from U.S. tourists -- only 12 American tour buses rolled through the city this year, down from 21 buses last year.
But, throw in a couple of new local bus tours this year, including eight new late-night tours, and everything balanced out, executive director Ron Gauthier said Sunday.
"I think (the numbers) speak to the energy of the festival and the spirit of our pavilions," Gauthier said. "It's tough being the largest festival all the time, but we keep adding new things."
The Ethiopian, Sudanese, and the DOTC First Nations pavilions made their debut this year, while the Chile Lindo, Paraguay, Tamil, and Argentina 'Tango' pavilions marked their return.
"(New communities) bring a different flavour of culture to the festival," Gauthier said. "People go, on average, to five or six pavilions. The more variety and the more options you have intrigues (more and new) people to go."
Last year, Folklorama got $400,000 to market itself into neighbouring provinces and the U.S.
This year's success was also buoyed by the festival's kick-off events, Gauthier said, including two weeks of concerts at Old Market Square. But the real spark came on July 31, when 13,000 people flocked to The Forks to take in a sampling of the upcoming pavilions. The event was also broadcast Canada-wide for the first time, netting 250,000 viewers, on top of 50,000 local viewers. "That was quite exciting," Gauthier said.
Meanwhile, there are limited quantities of Folklorama Beer, a unique brew from Fort Garry Brewing Co. Ltd., still left on Liquor Mart shelves. The grand prize of a WestJet trip from the lager's Peel and Win contest has yet to be claimed.