Zambonis, Whistle Dogs and banana meatloaf The Free Press arts department’s favourite stories of 2022 ran the gamut from tiny trees to big personalities

Time flies when you’re writing hundreds of stories on tight deadlines. The Free Press arts and life team wrote a lot of words about a whole lot of things in 2022. Before we turn the page on another year, we wanted to revisit some of our favourite stories from the last 365 days.

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Time flies when you’re writing hundreds of stories on tight deadlines. The Free Press arts and life team wrote a lot of words about a whole lot of things in 2022. Before we turn the page on another year, we wanted to revisit some of our favourite stories from the last 365 days.

The following are 24 stories, presented chronologically, that taught us something, engaged our creativity and offered a new perspective on life in Winnipeg. Yes, a list of 22 would have made more sense this calendar year, but we’re not the Free Press math department.

Domestic diva — The story of Mrs. Madeline Day captured my imagination like few others. She was the newspaper’s cooking columnist who, despite being an absent mother and a divorcée, was regarded as a homemaking icon and a local celebrity in the 1930s. Day’s story — and her strange banana meatloaf recipe — sent me down a rabbithole of archival cooking research that culminated in Homemade: Recipes and Stories from Winnipeg and Beyond, a (now sold out) community cookbook released for the Free Press’s 150th anniversary. — Eva Wasney

Cool operators — If you’ve ever gone to a hockey game, you’ve noticed the machines that clean the ice between periods. Two operators, Larry Santucci, an arena foreman with the city who has maintained arena ice for 42 years, and Taylor Brandt, a newcomer behind the wheel in East St. Paul, showed there’s more to the job than driving in circles, especially when coaches and players think they can do the job better. “You have to have a thick skin to be a Zamboni driver,” Santucci said. — Alan Small


Larry Santucci, a foreman with the city, takes the Zamboni out for a spin at Charlie Gardener Arena.

Blessings and marshmallows — Sometimes the smallest gestures make the biggest impact. Last winter, Sunshine House organizers kept a small fire pit burning behind the community drop-in centre on Logan Avenue. The curbside fire became a place to keep warm, conduct ceremonies, mourn loved ones, offer outreach and, of course, roast marshmallows. — EW

What If? The day Nazis ruled Winnipeg — Did you know the Nazis invaded Winnipeg? What if I told you the government folded immediately and ceded control of the city to a group of stormtroopers who flew over Norway House on Feb. 19, 1942? What if I told you it was all an elaborate hoax to raise money for the Canadian war effort? — Ben Waldman

Less rock, more talk — Prior to the Winnipeg stop of his spoken-word tour, I chatted by Zoom with Iron Maiden frontman (and polymath) Bruce Dickinson about life, rock ‘n’ roll, his three-hour spoken word shows and his rock ‘n’ roll trousers (he brought them up, more than once). “They’re greasing up the trousers for me as we speak” was the quote of the year for me. — Ben Sigurdson

Voices of the lake — This was an eye-opening conversation after an enriching viewing of these four enormously important documentaries by Kevin Settee. Much to my shame, I did not know enough about First Nations before settling in Canada. I did not know the profound connection they have to the land, their depth of knowledge and the sense of responsibility which lie upon their shoulders — a sense of responsibility we should all have towards the lands we live on. — AV Kitching

A complex brew — Chronicling the opening of a bricks-and-mortar brewery had long been a story idea kicking around in my head, so starting in April 2021, I followed the progress at Low Life Barrel House as they worked on getting their Daly Street North brewery off the ground. They opened this past May, and the resulting long read for 49.8 documented the surprisingly emotional story of getting there. — BS


People visit Low Life Barrel House on the establishments opening day.

Meaningful motifs — In the spring, I sat down with Métis graphic designer Shaun Vincent, founder of Vincent Design Inc. Vincent and his team created the art associated with the transfer of the flagship Hudson’s Bay building in downtown Winnipeg to the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) — an act of reconciliation that made international news. I went in wanting to learn more about the floral motif that appeared on the hides and blankets presented at the ceremony, and came away with a story about art, culture, roots and legacy. — Jen Zoratti

Cleared for takeoff — The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada reopened in May, adding a $43-million new hangar filled with a century’s worth of historic aircraft and other aviation-related exhibits. It includes an innovative display of the Ghost of Charron Lake, which explores decades of searching and diving to find a Western Canadian Airways’ Fokker Universal plane, which sank in the eastern Manitoba lake in 1931 and was recovered in 2006. — AS

Snake charmers — Photographer Mikaela MacKenzie and I went to Narcisse, and all we got was to tag along on a field trip with the kids of Winnipeg Beach School. What an awesome day. I’ll never forget Zach Bogaard’s demonstration for his classmates about how to properly pick up a snake. “Their bones are very fragile,” he said. — BW

Perfectionist’s perfect launch — Faouzia, the Moroccan Canadian pop singer who grew up in Carman, made a giant career leap in 2022, which included a Juno Award nomination, music and fashion buzz in Variety and Vogue, and the release of her debut album, Citizens. While the Grammy buzz Citizens generated — Faouzia launched the record by performing its songs at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles — didn’t materialize, the record spawned concert appearances in Europe, North America and Dubai. — AS

Sweet and sour — For the first article in my Homemade Downtown series, I interviewed Manitoba Museum’s CEO Dorota Blumczynska as she cooked with her children, and it was a joyous experience. The chaos in the kitchen generated a story full of warmth and honesty — a great way to kick off the series. — AK


Dorota Blumczynska, CEO of the Manitoba Museum with her daughters, Maya (right), 7, and Kala (left), 10, make Zurek, a traditional Polish soup that has fermented rye flour base.

Wines abuzz in Abruzzo — After hunkering down at home for so long, it felt great to get back to wine country again — and in June I visited Italy’s Abruzzo region. The latter featured beautiful rustic countrysides, incredible views of the Adriatic Sea, great food and, of course, plenty of tremendous reds, whites and rosés. — BS

For better or for wurst — Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear mustard stains. Winnipeg’s Peter Doroshuk missed the Whistle Dog, so he put the pressure on A&W, commenting on each of the fast-food chain’s pictures to “bring it back.” — BW

Cultivating a passion — There are a lot of passionate people out there with niche interests. And then there are bonsai enthusiasts. I had the pleasure of meeting longtime cultivator Joe Grande on his property near Ste. Genevieve, where he tends nearly 200 tiny trees. His obsession with bonsai is infectious and I left the interview determined to try the artform myself. — EW

Front-page brews — In addition to wanting to chronicle the build of a local brewery, another idea that I’d had for some time was to go to work an actual brew. The Free Press’s 150th provided a great chance to do something in honour of the milestone, and the result was helping make After Deadline, an Italian grape ale, at Nonsuch Brewing Co.’s Pacific Avenue facility with head brewer Mark Borowski. — BS


Drinks writer Ben Sigurdson stirs the malt into the water for the initial mash while brewing the Free Press 150th anniversary beer, After Deadline, at Nonsuch Brewing Co.

A dog’s life — In the fall, I had the honour of meeting a very special husky named Trevor. Trevor has terminal cancer, and so his mom, Aimee Fortier, put together a bucket list — steal a piece of meat (No. 2); play hide-and-seek (No. 7); have my friends over for a play date (No. 12) — for her best boy. I loved the bucket list idea, and I loved telling the story of this bond even more. — JZ

Go big and go home — Paul Rabliauskas is one of the funniest comedians in the city, and now he’s showing the rest of the country what they’ve been missing. I profiled the Anishinaabe comic from Poplar River earlier this year ahead of the debut of his CTV sitcom, Acting Good, which just wrapped up its first season and is now streaming on Crave. — BW

Timely dual exhibitions put beauty, brutality on display — The exhibitions at the Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre that opened in October revealed the beauty created by Ukrainian and Ukrainian Canadian artists, as well as the horrors created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that began in February. Immersive art projections show off the works of Taras Shevchenko and Maria Prymachenko, but it’s quite the contrast when followed by Ukraine: Home of the Brave. The shows are on display at the Alexander Avenue museum until April. — AS

Sweet, sweet verdicts — This was a joint effort and is on my list mainly because I was forced to eat a Coffee Crisp and write about it. As we bid adieu to the year, I feel moved to reiterate just how much I loathe this travesty of a chocolate bar. — AK


Jen Zoratti (left), Al Small, Ben Waldman, Eva Wasney, and Ben Sigurdson try Halloween candy that they have never tasted before in the Free Press boardroom.

Bright and beautiful — This story was a long time coming — for no other reason than wanting to get it right. When I first met Anishnaabe artist Jordan Stranger in the summer of 2021, I was interested in doing a profile on the graphic designer and muralist whose work was popping up on street corners and logos all over the city. It was immediately apparent that there was more at play here than a simple profile. After more than a year and multiple interviews, I published a story that, I believe, captures Stranger’s worldview and his experience navigating corporate reconciliation efforts as an Indigenous artist. — EW

Finding the right words — Speaking to first-time filmmaker MC de Natividad about her documentary Bumalik, where she attempts to regain her fluency in her mother tongue, struck a chord with me. I found her passion to relearn Filipino and her drive to get the film off the ground inspiring. — AK

Off on the right foot — This story didn’t run in the arts section, but is a quintessential arts story. For a long time, I’ve wanted to do a deep dive on pointe shoes — those iconic pieces of ballet equipment that represent both rite of passage and ritual. This was one of those rare moments when something appeared on the page exactly as it appeared in my head — and, to that end, the photos by Mikaela Mackenzie are just stunning. — JZ


Emilie Lewis tries on her friend’s pointe shoes from among a collection of old and new pairs at Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

‘It was like the end of the world’ — A few weeks ago, I met Mariia Balieieva and Yarynka Chepiha, two friends and professional musicians who fled Ukraine when the war broke out and came to Winnipeg. They had to leave everything, including their music careers, behind, so when they had the chance to perform with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in December, it wasn’t just a big deal — it was everything. I’m grateful to both of them for trusting me with their stories. — JZ

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Alan Small

Alan Small

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

AV Kitching

AV Kitching

AV Kitching is an arts and life writer at the Free Press.

Ben Sigurdson

Ben Sigurdson
Literary editor, drinks writer

Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and author of the newsletter, NEXT, a weekly look towards a post-pandemic future.

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