Ace Burpee’s Top 100 Most Fascinating Manitobans for 2022
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I hope all is well. I’m not going to lie, I had an incredibly easy time this year finding content for this list. With that though, comes the inevitable guilt I feel for leaving people out. Those I’ve missed I’ll carry forward to next year and hope it all evens out over time.
People in Manitoba are interesting and do amazing things. There are so many incredible stories to share and celebrate. I try not to repeat names on my lists year to year, so there might be some seemingly obvious omissions that may have been included on a previous list.
Anyway, all the best and happy new year.
● Vince Fontaine: We lost one of the most beautiful people of all time in 2022. Vince Fontaine was a leader, an inspiration, a massive talent and all things still inherently good. He was one of one. Forever one of my heroes.
● Clarence Nepinak (spirit names Scattering Wind & Seven Eagles): The passing of Clarence will forever leave a void in this province and honestly, in this world. The epitome of charisma, class and dignity, his commitment to Indigenous language preservation, his passion for the Ojibwa way of life, and the pioneering and shaping of what Manitoba is today, will live forever. One of the most beautiful people I have ever met, we are better because of Clarence Nepinak.
● Andrew Penner & Thomas Guenther: Valley Bakery in Winkler came out with a Mennonite spin on Tim Hortons’ massive marketing partnership with Justin Bieber. “Tim Wiebs” dropped in January and were a massive hit. It was a curated box of donuts — all chosen by people named Tim Wiebe. Brilliant.
● Dylan MacKay: Dylan posted a tweet that blew up — correctly pointing out that perhaps a Leon’s storage ottoman shaped like a hippopotamus should be called a “Hippopottoman.” After massive online traction, Leon’s indeed changed the name.
● Cynthia Reyes: The registered nurse went as viral as anyone has ever gone from this province after her husband, Manitoba’s minister of advanced education, skills and immigration, Jon Reyes, tweeted a photo of her clearing snow after arriving home from a 12-hour shift on the health-care front lines. There was a lot to unpack from the viral moment, but Cynthia is a legend from any angle.
● Jemima Westcott: From her care home in Brandon, Jemima celebrated her 111th birthday and the official title of our province’s oldest living person. An absolutely incredible run. Jemima was born in 1911.
● Kevin Hart: Hart is a former Manitoba regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations and a recent inductee into the Football Manitoba Hall of Fame. From Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, he starred as left guard for the Winnipeg Senior Mustangs, and is the hall of fame’s first Indigenous inductee.
● Saira & Nilufer Rahman, Mandeep Sodhi: Sisters Saira and Nilufer have made some incredible films via their production company, Snow Angel Films. They first burst onto the scene with Prairie Mosque, a film about the construction of the first mosque in Winnipeg. They followed that up with Arctic Mosque, a doc that followed the journey of a pre-fab mosque on a 4,000-kilometre journey to the Northwest Territories. Both films received enormous praise, and much of their perhaps lesser-known work is equally fantastic.
They made a doc called My Song: Expressions Through Hip Hop about the Manitoba Ethnocultural Advisory and Advocacy Council and the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba hosting a hip-hop workshop, and it was just tremendous.
Now, the camera has been focused on them. Mandeep Sodhi made a short film about the sisters’ lives in filmmaking, part of the excellent CBC Manitoba Creator Network initiative. Sodhi made an incredible four-part series profiling South Asian artists in Manitoba called Our Culture, Our Art.
● Jana Morrison: In early 2022, Syfy dropped a new series called Astrid and Lilly Save the World. Fans of the show didn’t just like it, they loved it. Super cool series. The role of Astrid is played by Morrison, a legitimate talent from right here in Manitoba.
● Jessie Pruden: When the pandemic hit, Jessie turned to a new hobby — beading. Self-taught, the hobby gradually turned into something more when she created the online business called Bead ’n Butter. Her work gained traction online and attracted the attention of New York-based fashion retailer Flying Solo. The partnership led to Pruden being invited to showcase her creations at Paris Fashion Week.
● Matthew Shoup: Shoup directed a documentary called COVID Choir. The doc was a look into how choir could be taught when, due to pandemic restrictions, you’re basically not allowed to sing. It featured his choir teacher and Winnipeg Jets anthem singer Stacey Nattrass-Brown, and was submitted to the Winnipeg Film Group’s Gimme 10 in 30! Doc Challenge. Ten aspiring filmmakers were chosen to make a documentary in 30 days. Shoup’s doc not only broke through at its first screening, it went on to be accepted into international festivals around the world. Love it.
● Jonato Dalayoan & Marc Gomez: Dalayoan is a designer and the owner of 4two Design Inc. Marc Gomez is the creative lead of hockey branding at True North Sports and Entertainment. They collaborated on the Winnipeg Jets’ Filipino Heritage Night logo and jersey, one of the greatest designs in sports history.
● Amila Rajakaruna & Arshala Dona: The Scovie Awards (named for Wilbur Scoville, the scientist who developed the Scoville Organoleptic Test over a century ago, to determine the heat scale of chili peppers) are held annually to honour the best hot sauces from all over the world. Rajakaruna and Dona are owners of Tasty Heat’s Hot Sauces & Spicy Foods. Their debut effort, Tasty Heat’s Meat Curry Powder, was recently named one of the finest hot sauces on the planet.
● Avery Lindgren: Selected by Team Canada this year, Avery will represent our country next year in swimming at the World Dwarf Games in Germany.
● Juan Pablo Quiñonez: Seventy-eight days in the wilderness. Last person standing. Quiñonez was the winner of Season 9 of the History Channel’s survival competition series Alone. An unreal performance on one of the coolest shows of all time.
● Dylan Thornborough & Patrick Law: A decade of divots. Since 2012, Thornborough and Law have organized and executed an annual golf fundraiser called Marathon Monday. They crush over 200 holes of golf in just one day while raising money for the Canadian Cancer Society. In the past 10 years they’ve raised more than $100,000 for cancer research and treatment.
● Catherine Wreford-Ledlow: Brain cancer thriver. Dancer. Actor. Winner of Amazing Race Canada 2022. Sang the anthems with her children at Winnipeg Jets Hockey Fights Cancer Night. Incredible person, amazing year.
● Jan Regehr: Jan is the founder of Pineridge Hollow. Working with her daughters, Katrina and Beth, Jan has grown Pineridge Hollow from humble beginnings in 1992 into an elite Manitoba destination. Ambitious, brave and trailblazing.
● Kimberly Ballantyne: Fulfilled a lifelong vision and made history in the process. Ballantyne became the first Indigenous female pilot in Opaskwayak Cree Nation this year, inspiring countless people on her journey.
● Jackie Traverse: An incredibly talented artist, one of her designs became an official Canada Post stamp in acknowledgment of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
● Karen Kosowski: Karen is a producer, songwriter and musician who has built an incredible career in Nashville. Her resumé is ridiculous. She’s performed at the Grammys, the NFL Super Bowl and at the American Music Awards, and has been nominated for multiple Grammy awards. Massive talent. Big fan.
● Holly Fjeldsted, Jodie Bezdzietny & Melodie Schellenberg: Their grassroots ribbon campaign raised thousands and thousands of dollars for relief efforts on the ground in Ukraine. Hours and hours and hours of work for a country that means the world to them. Just like these women mean the world to me.
● Ivy Châtelain: She is the founder of Foundit!, a tech startup that tracks and locates Bluetooth devices. The technology is a huge asset to those with hearing challenges or other facing other barriers. Châtelain received North Forge Technology Exchange’s Women Founder Business Award.
● Gail-Ann Breese: She had always been active, but feeling sluggish in her late 50s, she started weight-training. Lifting gave her life, and it turns out she’s really, really strong. Gail-Ann is now a world powerlifting champion at 62. I love it.
● Karen Robb, Regan Moses, Adil Hayat & Inga Tkachuk: To me, this is one of the most fascinating things that’s ever happened in one of Manitoba’s schools. Ever. Robb, an Educational Assistant at Fort Richmond Collegiate, was able to successfully and safely guide her birth father out of Ukraine with an enormous amount of way-, way-outside-the-box thinking. Honestly, I’ve read the Free Press story about this countless times and my mind is still blown.
● Lindsay Somers: A bright future for Osborne Village is absolutely worth fighting for. Somers, executive director of Osborne Village BIZ, is absolutely up for the challenge. Sometimes it’s not about what things were, it’s about what they can be. She was also recently awarded the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal.
● Shaun Vincent: Pope Francis made a historic visit to Canada this year that focused on reconciliation with Indigenous people for the church’s role in residential schools. Vincent, CEO of Vincent Design, was approached to create the official logo for the visit. Hesitant at first, his family, residential school survivors and knowledge keepers encouraged him to approach the situation as an opportunity to contribute to healing. In the circle, all are equal, all are visible.
● Tina Chen: She has been appointed the first-ever executive lead for equity, diversity and inclusion at the University of Manitoba. Chen will work to eradicate systemic inequities and bias in post-secondary education.
● Emily Tuttosi: A native of Souris, Tuttosi plays in England’s top women’s rugby league. Since signing with the Exeter Chiefs, she’s been a dominant force in the league, and was named Exeter’s player of the year. (This is another one of the Manitobans literally nobody would know about were it not for the Free Press, and it’s super cool.)
● Jay Siemens: Has successfully turned his love of fishing and the outdoors into a living, something that’s super hard to do. He makes incredible films and his YouTube channel is a monster, racking up millions of views. He’s always innovating and he’s one of the kings of content in a crowded outdoors market.
● Jodi Fourre: Advocated (successfully) for the building of a new Indigenous outdoor classroom at École secondaire Oak Park High School. The finished product is a patio depicting the wheel of a Métis Red River cart in sand and stones, surrounded by a circle of limestone benches and gardens filled with sage, cedar and other traditional medicines. Tremendous job.
● Caroline Wiebe: Successfully finished the Marathon des Sables in Morocco. It’s called a “marathon,” but technically a marathon is 26.2 miles. The race Wiebe completed was 251 kilometres across the Sahara Desert. Ninety km/h winds. Blisters. Carrying all her own gear. Six days. Heat. Crushed it.
● Angela Lavallee: A warming hut popped up at The Forks last winter and it was stunning, yes, but there was a much deeper meaning. The red dress-inspired “Rainbow Butterfly” began with a collective of University of Winnipeg students several years back. It soon became, however, a community collaboration including family members and survivors. The Rainbow Butterfly hut honoured lives lost, but also educated visitors with a QR code that took people to the 231 calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
● Lorraine Daniels: I love her. Daniels is executive director of the National Indigenous Residential School Museum of Canada on Long Plain First Nation. She’s an incredible woman. She shares stories with sincerity and honesty. She educates. She leads. She advocates. Meeting her was one of the highlights of my year.
● Shiela Redublo & family: Redublo, an organizer of the Sulat-Kamay Charity, rallied her community to uncover fire hydrants buried by Winnipeg’s record-setting snow. She launched an “adopt-a-hydrant” program for children and their families, mobilizing countless others to help their communities and the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.
● Andrea del Campo, Paul De Gurse, Chadd Henderson, Toby Hughes, RobYn Slade & Jane Testar: Together they form Outside Joke, an improv theatre company that’s been crushing it since 2002. Always fresh, always something new — exceptional at their craft.
● Ayeza Shehzad: Ayeza, who attends Henry G. Izatt School, was awarded a national prize at the Abdus Salam Science Fair. Her project about the science behind tsunamis and how water depth affects wave velocity stood out among submissions from across Canada. The contest is held in honour of Nobel laureate Abdus Salam, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. Salam was the first Muslim Nobel laureate.
● Divya Mehra: Described as “resoundingly timely and sophisticated in addressing systems of cultural representation, production and authority,” Mehra was named winner of the Sobey Art Award. Along with receiving one of the highest honours for art in the country, her work will be displayed at the National Gallery of Canada through March of 2023. Huge.
● Joanne Lewandoski, Lesia Szwaluk, Marijka Diakiw, Dmytro Malyk & Maryka Chabluk: They make up the board of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Manitoba. They’ve done an incredible job rallying community support and educating and advocating throughout what has been an incredibly trying year for Ukraine. They’ve helped people travel to safety, raised funds, helped settle those who arrived here with nothing and have done pretty much everything in between. Joanne, the board president, is an incredible person, speaker and leader.
● Kenny Omega: Born Tyson Smith in God’s Country (Transcona), Omega might actually be the best professional wrestler of all time. An absolute legend in Japan, and beloved around the world, Omega will be returning to Winnipeg in the new year with All Elite Wrestling, as both a star and executive vice-president.
● Madisson Lawrence: Came home from the Canada Summer Games with gold in the heptathlon (100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin and 800m). In doing so, Maddy destroyed a 33-year-old Canadian women’s record. It is absolutely one of the biggest sporting achievements for this province in decades.
● Kim Wheeler, Jolene Banning & Tanya Talaga: You want the unfiltered truth? You listen to the aunties. The Auntie Up! podcast (which I thought was only supposed to be 10 episodes, but last I checked, there were 20-something) explores just about everything, including decolonizing the media, environment issues, language, humour and more. Nothing is off the table. Available wherever you listen to music and podcasts.
● Susan Algie & Julie Penner: I think this is super, super cool. Via the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, the bilingual Archi10 app dropped in your app store. For riders of Winnipeg Transit’s No. 10 bus, the app gives you a cultural, historical and super-interesting travelogue of St. Boniface, downtown, Wolseley and more. Narrated by John K. Samson and Andrina Turenne, with bonus music throughout. Super great.
● Carol Cassell: She’s kinda the map-lady. For people looking for something to do that costs relatively no money, Carol does this community a massive favour. She produces maps highlighting Winnipeg’s must-see Halloween homes, Christmas lights, free winter activity options and more. I’m sure it’s a ton of work, but it is very much appreciated.
● Dr. Gigi Osler: An in-person and online lifeline, Dr. Osler, along with being awesome, was appointed to the Canadian Senate.
● Trina Ross: Maybe the greatest dragon boat-rowing performance of all time. Ross returned with Team Canada from the Dragon Boat World Championships in the Czech Republic with three gold, one silver and four bronze medals.
● Sandy Doyle: Blondie’s will go down as an all-time top 5 iconic burger joint, but there isn’t a Blondie’s without Sandy. She spent over three decades as the only person behind the grill and over three decades never changing who she was for anyone. Blondie’s is no more, but the legend will live forever. Thanks for the memories. A tremendous run.
● Steve Onotera: I consume a lot of content on YouTube. If you have one million subscribers on the platform, you’re a thing. Like a big, big thing. In my opinion, Onotera is one of the most creative and fascinating guitar players on the planet. It’s not easy to capture an audience of over a million in an exceptionally crowded space, but he’s done it. Just awesome.
● Uzoma Asagwara, Jamie Moses & Natalie Bell: Moses and Asagwara championed, and succeeded, in having Aug. 1 officially recognized as Emancipation Day in Manitoba. Emancipation Day honours the abolition of slavery in British North America in 1834. Bell hosted the first official Emancipation Day event and it was an absolute clinic in celebrating a victory, balanced with the need for all of us to continue the work.
● Kristi Meek & Jen Mosienko: A stunning new mural in St. James was the brainchild of Kristi, president and executive director of the Assiniboia Chamber of Commerce. It honours the 100th anniversary of St. James, and Jen, the artist, did an incredible job.
● Brandi Olenick & Jessee Havey: Brandi and Jessee are founder and co-founder, respectively, of We Rock Winnipeg. Founded in 2017, the organization is dedicated to the empowerment of female, trans, two-spirit, and gender-variant youth and adults through music. They run music camps where individuals can learn, write and perform music, under the guidance of some incredible Winnipeg artists. I love it.
● Brix Delcarmen & Leila Castro: Brix is the back-to-back winner of the Upo Festival. Castro, one of the administrators of the 204 Filipino Forum and Marketplace, brought the Upo Festival to life in Winnipeg. What is it? A competition to see who can grow the longest and heaviest upo. A vegetable known in English as a bottle gourd, Brix’s 2022 winning upo measured more than two metres long.
● Brent & Gaylene Nemeth, Angie Beaque: Many will remember Gaylene and Brent losing their son Cooper Nemeth very publicly and tragically in 2016. His parents, with tons of support from Angie, having been staging events and initiatives for the past five-plus years in his honour. They’re just incredible people. They stage tournaments, charity games, raffles and other events, and have raised thousands and thousands of dollars to give back to the Bear Clan, to assist those with financial barriers to participate in hockey and more. I’m proud to know them.
● Tim Partridge, Hannah Lepieszo & Mike Ogilvie: They are first responders and the organizers of “Responder-Palooza,” an evening of tribute bands that raises funds for families going through a rough time. The first “Responder-Palooza” brought in over $10,000 for the family of a three-year-old with a rare neurodevelopmental disease, and after a couple of COVID cancellations, the event made its triumphant return this year.
● Mavis McLaren, Nadia Thompson, Misgana Alemayehu & Rhonda Thompson-Wilson: The BHM committee in this province formerly stood for “Black History Month,” but a rebrand — a very smart one — means it now stands for “Black History Manitoba.” The entire organization does an incredible job educating, advocating for and supporting Black Manitobans. They’re inclusive and welcoming, and are making us better people and a better province. Forward. Together.
● Michelle Cameron: She is the owner and CEO of Dreamcatcher Promotions, the largest Indigenous-owned promotional company in the entire country. She’s just crushing it. Serving thousands of clients, yes, but also providing over 40 jobs. An absolute force.
● The ‘Harvard Gardens’ families: The unofficial winter champs. I meant to put them on the list last year but I always have dozens of names left over when I reach 100, so I guess it got bumped. It actually works out even better this year though. The “Harvard Gardens” went mega-viral on TikTok last year and this year it’s even better. Originally three families, now it involves four families getting together in Crescentwood to build a massive outdoor rink that spans the front yards of all their homes. Winter rules. Being outdoors rules. This rules. So awesome.
● Robin Chant: She retires a legend, a pioneer and an inspiration. She hung up her helmet this year, and will forever be known as the first female firefighter-paramedic in the history of the City of Brandon’s emergency services. All the best.
● The Skate Sisters: The trio of Golda Ferrer, Signy Thorsteinson and Jill Munro originally bonded over a love of roller skating through their involvement with the Peg City Rollers club. This past fall they executed “IllumiSkate the Night,” an outdoor, disco-inspired roller rink during Nuit Blanche. Just the coolest.
● Desmond Castel: A massive wildfire forced the evacuation of Mathias Colomb First Nation this past summer. Castel stayed behind to care for dozens of dogs who were left behind. When the pet food supply ran out, he took to the water and literally fished for food to sustain the pets. They’d wait on the shore for him to return so they could eat. An absolute legend.
● Negash Coffee: One of the best cups of coffee on the planet can be found in Niverville. Negash is a tremendous story, importing and roasting the finest beans in the world, directly from Ethiopia. They are a true success story. Shout out to Henok Negash-Gebre, Adam Hashi and Mohamed Ali for their vision.
● Simon Monteith: Yeah, big fan of science and a big fan of Simon — better known as Simon the Scientist. From his home in Opaskwayak Cree Nation, he virtually invites people into his home for experiments in geology, chemistry, technology and many other topics. Super dope. Again, big fan.
● The Smart family: An event with somewhat humble beginnings has now funded some of the most game-changing cancer research in the history of this province. The Smart family first executed the Carberry Potato Truck Pull seven years ago at the Carberry Fair, inspired by their son’s battle with the disease. The event is closing in on the $1-million mark in terms of funds raised. It’s a remarkable achievement. Classic small-town Manitoba hustle mixed with small-town Manitoba generosity. We are so fortunate to have people like the Smart family calling this province home.
● Jennine Krauchi: The Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a new coin celebrating the history of the Red River Métis this year. The design was created by Krauchi and features traditional Métis beadwork, plus the message “Believe in Yourself, Believe in Métis” in Michif. It’s stunning.
● Michael Baker: A student service teacher at Springfield Collegiate Institute in Oakbank, Baker authored Manitoba’s introductory high school course on disability studies. This year, a new accessibility sign was installed in the school’s parking lot. This is significant.
The updated image of an individual in a wheelchair depicts a person in motion — not static and stationary. It’s revolutionary and important. Symbols that represent disability as active and powerful is a massive step forward. I support this very much.
Ace Burpee is a 103.1 Virgin Radio personality and a tireless supporter of charitable events and causes.
Updated on Saturday, December 24, 2022 11:37 AM CST: Fixes spelling of Jon Reyes