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Sunshine, STAT

Rain fails to dampen spirit at Teddy Bears' Picnic

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How's a little cold and wet weather ever going to keep kids and their teddy bears away from the Teddy Bears' Picnic?

Come on -- it didn't snow, eh?

And teddy bears have fur anyway, right?

There were so many families in Assiniboine Park on Sunday that the east gate on Wellington Crescent was closed off by mid-morning, and a crawling caravan of cars was directed to the zoo overflow lot.

Even in the late afternoon, trying to find a parking spot within two blocks north of Portage Avenue was like trying to find a spot near a Jets game.

"The weather's not good, but they still want to come," laughed dad Harold Anero, whose two-year-old son Raphael and nine-year-old daughter Miamae were clutching teddy bears as they checked out the back of a police cruiser.

Unlike most of the time a cruiser's in use, the back doors were wide open, and backseat visitors were free to come and go.

"It's cool," said Miamae.

Another parent, Xiao Huan Liu, said weather tends to be unco-operative for the annual event.

"Pretty much every year it's the same situation," she said stoically.

At least the lines weren't enormous Sunday, said her husband, David Li. "That's a good thing," Li said, as soon-to-be-four-year-old son Jordan Li was certified as a junior paramedic.

Rebecca Dyer used to come to the Teddy Bears' Picnic back in the day. "Yeah, when I was a kid," she said.

And there she was again Sunday, this time as mother to twins Talon and Ryder Villeneuve-Dyer, just 81/2 months old.

"There's not much really they can do," the mom admitted.

But one day they'll be able to say they were at the picnic before they'd turned a year old.

Weather was also no deterrent for Rochelle Van De Velde and her two kids, three-year-old Noah Monita and five-year-old Jenna Monita, overseeing their teddy getting a cast.

"The kids always have a great time. We volunteered at the sun-awareness booth -- we were coming anyway," Van De Velde said.

Sun awareness?

Right, good advice, and something to remember should a strange bright ball emitting heat and light ever appear in our skies.

The Manitoba Teachers' Society was doing a great business telling stories to the kids -- and to the parents, who were often more animated than the toddler munchkins.

Bill Quinn, a developmental music teacher in the Louis Riel School Division, had the kids and parents marching and jumping up and down and responding to his prompts as he led them through interactive stories.

His stories -- big surprise! -- had bear themes.

"Uh, a cave," Quinn told the mesmerized tentful. "A dark gloomy cave... "

Gosh, do you think there was a bear in there?

"We've had up to 90 people today" at one time, said MTS official Raman Job.

"It's amazing -- no matter what the weather is, the kids are out," said Quinn, who performed dozens of times Sunday.

Teddy Bears' Picnic officials pointed out there were a few new things this year -- no, alas, not a dome, nor artificial sunlight.

Or heaters.

But there was a teddy bears' dental clinic, and the former BASH unit at which injured bears received medical care was replaced by three large clinic tents, each with specific medical facilities.

"We have different things in each of the tents," said Jim McLaren. "Everyone wants to have a cast on their bear. We have X-rays, CAT scans," he said.

Lines were shorter than some years, said Chris Anderson, a staffer with the Children's Hospital Foundation. All proceeds from sales at the picnic go to the foundation.

"That's the good thing about the weather, they can see all the tents, no waiting," Anderson said.

"The weather's been a downer for us, but it's amazing that the people of Winnipeg still come out, since 8:30 a.m.

"They put their rain gear on, their warm gear," said Anderson.

McLaren and Anderson said there is no accurate way to count attendance, since people come and go all day long and there are so many ways to enter the park.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 28, 2012 B1

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