Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Thousands create living flag

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From the air, it looked like a Canadian flag composed of people in red-and-white T-shirts. But from the ground, it looked like a cultural mosaic.

The mass of Manitobans who crammed shoulder to shoulder Sunday morning were a visible representation of the province's colourful ethnic diversity. From their language and their appearance, it was clear Winnipeg's living flag was knit with material from many continents.

The thousands of participants jammed together as the Downtown BIZ, the organizing body, took a photograph.

Some people smiled, others waved, and some looked straight up at the camera.

Many were Canadians who were born far away from Canada, but now call it home.

"It's about being part of the community," said Mar Manimtim, who came with his girlfriend to be part of the flag.

Participants began showing up to the legislative grounds around 9:30 a.m. and heard musical performances by Brenlee Martin and Enjoy Your Pumas. Red-and-white T-shirts were given out on a first-come, first-served basis, and a Hercules aircraft flew over the event a number of times.

An official head count wasn't available Sunday night, but organizers hoped the overall participation rate would beat six other cities attempting the same feat. Last year, Winnipeg drew 3,400 participants.

The photograph of the living flag was supposed to be taken at 11:15 a.m., although there was a short delay. While waiting, participants sang O Canada in both English and French under the leadership of Martin.

When the photo had been captured, participants started to disperse. Some headed to other Canada Day festivities, while others got a spot in the shade and enjoyed a hotdog and cold drink for lunch.

Germaine Sawchuk and her son, Gary, stayed on the grounds to enjoy the sun. Sawchuk has lived in Canada her entire life; she loves living in "friendly Manitoba," she said.

"She's been living here since 1919, she's 92," said her son.

Germaine said: "One thing that I do like is that I managed to get to be 92 with hardly any problems of being sick or anything. For me it was a healthy place to live."

As children waved small flags and people cheered after singing Happy Birthday to the nation, it was evident that at 145 years old, Canada is very much alive.

kristy.hoffman@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2012 A5

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