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Manitoba makes the best of winter

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Now that it’s January, one thing’s for certain — we’re in the depth of the Manitoba winter.

This time of year can be much more enjoyable if you welcome the season and indulge in a little community warmth.

Here are a few festivals and festivities to help you celebrate the sparkling beauty of winter, and the great people of our province:

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The Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival takes place Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 in Brandon. This winter cultural event celebrates different ethnic backgrounds — like Winnipeg’s Folklorama but on a smaller scale. This year marks its 10th anniversary and features a dozen pavilions, representing places such as Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Ukraine and the U.S.A. More than 600 volunteers welcome thousands of visitors for food, music, dance, and cultural activities.

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The Grand Marais Family Festival, from Feb. 8-10, has grown to become the signature event of Lake Winnipeg’s East Beaches. Opening ceremonies kick off Friday at Walter Whyte School, featuring entertainment by local students. Outdoor activities include toboggan slide, ski trail, and sleigh rides. Inside you’ll find a magic show, fish pond, bean-bag toss, face painting and craft tables. There’s also a cribbage tournament, family curling bonspiel and live music on Saturday night.

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The 39th annual Beaver Days Winter Carnival happens Feb. 9-11 at Falcon Lake. This popular gathering draws crowds from all over to take part in snowmobile poker derby, curling bonspiel, and one of the largest sponge hockey tournaments around. There’s live entertainment, casino night with Texas Hold ’em, snow sculpture contest, and cooking competitions.

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The granddaddy of winter outings is the Northern Manitoba Trapper’s Festival, Feb. 13-17 in The Pas. Manitoba’s oldest festival and one of Canada’s oldest winter festivals, it celebrates the diverse cultural heritage of the pioneer, and is steeped in the genuine hospitality and friendliness found in the north. Competitive dog racing is the major attraction, and one of the most popular contests is flour packing, reminiscent of days gone by when freight was hauled by canoes and York Boats and packed over portages.

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The 47th annual Wonderful Winter Weekend happens Feb. 15 -17 at Winnipeg Beach, where you can partake in mixed curling bonspiels, an ice fishing derby, snowmobile radar runs, pancake breakfasts, a darts tournament, a chili contest and a bonfire. One of the highlights is a spectacular fireworks display out on the lake, where the clarity on a crisp dark evening is like nothing else.

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The two-year old Gimli Ice Festival, March 2-3, began because someone came up with the idea of racing cars on the lake. When the Winnipeg Car Club Association sought to bring an ice-racing event to Gimli, the town got behind it and created a festival to happen at the same time. The Fire and Ice Car Race is the feature event, along with kids’ mini-sled ice racing, bombardier rides, ice-fishing, ice-skating, hole-in-one golf competition, frozen fish toss, and curling with frozen chickens.

RoseAnna Schick is an avid traveller and outdoors woman who seeks adventure wherever she goes. And she loves Manitoba winters. For real. Email her at rascreative@yahoo.ca.

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