Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lots of attractions in our own backyard

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Readers are used to this column dealing with the major issues relating to world-wide travel, with coverage of those gem destinations that are on the bucket-list of those who covet global exploration.

And while that, and responding to your specific questions, will always be the prime focus, I think that our own region has much to offer for those who may not be thinking of long-distance travel.

I write about Canada frequently, but it's not that often that I get to extol the virtues of this province and the nearby Northwest Ontario region. Having travelled around the world and seen a fair bit of it, I think we have a lot to be proud of.

This long weekend is perhaps the good opportunity to start participating in the many festivals and other interesting options around Manitoba and nearby Northwest Ontario. Most of these are within three hours of Winnipeg, and they're all are worth visiting to capture some of the warmth and personality of these regions.

Perhaps the shortest drive for a festival is to Steinbach's Pioneer Days. In just over 30 minutes, you'll be able to experience the pioneer life that was the foundation for our province.

Farm-oriented activities include old fashioned threshing machines, log-splitting, butter-churning and traditional craftwork such as quilting. Enjoy a barbecue meal as you watch the horse show. The children can participate in events created especially for them.

A visit to the Mennonite Heritage Village should be a must during your time there.

Further afield waits, what is perhaps Manitoba's best and most widely known attraction, Dauphin's National Ukrainian Festival. The region itself is interesting, while the festival's three days of activities give you a chance to appreciate the history and culture of the Ukrainian-Canadian experience in a relaxed and unhurried manner.

Many may not be aware that the Icelandic Festival in Gimli, Closer to Winnipeg, you can learn all about Islendingadagurinn. is second-oldest ethnic gathering in Canada, or that the region is the largest Icelandic community outside of Iceland.

One of my favourite of all ethnic desserts is Icelandic Vinarterta (Veen-ar-ter-ta). Try it and you will be rushing to the bakery to take some home with you. There's a midway, sandcastle-building contest, loads of cultural exhibits and an ongoing traditional program.

A short trip west takes you across the border into the Lake of the Woods region of Northwest Ontario, where a number of events and activities are worth taking in this weekend.

For more than half a century, the Sioux Narrows Arts Festival has welcomed visitors from all over the U.S. and Canada. It's a unique attraction in a very small community that has built its reputation on selecting exhibitors with offerings ranging from fine art to clothing, woodwork, and even furniture that will find its place in homes and cottages throughout North America.

For outdoor-oriented families and fishers, this resort-filled community is often the reference point for great Canadian fishing.

Harbourfest is an annual celebration that's also taking place in Kenora, Ont. this weekend. Each day, full of activities, is highlighted by a major concert in the evening. On Sunday night at 10:30 p.m., an impressive Pyro Musical Fireworks display caps off the weekend.

Can't get away this weekend? Plan to head out to Winkler next weekend for the annual Harvest Festival and Exhibition. I been to this one many times, and the organizers do an excellent job presenting a wide array of truly exciting options in entertainment that includes touring acts, rodeos, a midway and fireworks display.

Later in the month, help celebrate aboriginal culture at Manito Ahbee, which takes place from Aug. 18 to 21 right here in Winnipeg. This is a big one that is highlighted by the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards and the International Pow Wow Competition Summit.

On the Aug. 23-25 weekend ,it's the Morden Corn and Apple Festival, another event I've had the pleasure to attend on many occasions in the past. You can't beat these prices -- free corn on the cob, free apple cider and free bus tours! The festival ends with a gospel stage performance on Sunday.

This is just a sampling of the range of attractions that take place in Manitoba and Northwest Ontario over the summer. There's a multitude of other country experiences -- rural golf trails, our far northern world-class attractions, country fairs and, later, the many fall (fowl) suppers.

These are all tourist products, and we can be proud of the unique urban and rural experiences we offer.

Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thartravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2013 E2

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