November 23, 2017

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Thousands gather at Portage & Main to create maple leaf

Echos of “happy birthday” sounded off the stately buildings at Portage Avenue and Main Street early Saturday morning, but what was more impressive was the choir — made up of over 3,600 people gathered at the intersection in the shape of the maple leaf to mark Canada's 150th.

Participants wore red (except for the few who wore white and formed a “150” under the leaf's stem), and held small Canada flags — or threaded them through their hats, backpacks, pony tails and headbands.

Arms reached up above the crowd in attempts to capture a shot of the sea, but the only picture that could accurately reflect the size of was taken from the top of the skyscraper at 201 Portage Avenue.

This was the first time the photo was taken at Portage & Main. Due to the size of the crowd and the shape of the intersection, participants formed in a maple leaf instead of the flag shape of years' past.

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Echos of "happy birthday" sounded off the stately buildings at Portage Avenue and Main Street early Saturday morning, but what was more impressive was the choir — made up of over 3,600 people gathered at the intersection in the shape of the maple leaf to mark Canada's 150th.

Participants wore red (except for the few who wore white and formed a "150" under the leaf's stem), and held small Canada flags — or threaded them through their hats, backpacks, pony tails and headbands.

DAN HARPER PHOTO</p><p>Over 3,600 people gathered this moring at Portage and Main to create a living maple leaf.</p>

DAN HARPER PHOTO

Over 3,600 people gathered this moring at Portage and Main to create a living maple leaf.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Gil Tetreault was one of the participants at Portage & Main Saturday morning. </p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Gil Tetreault was one of the participants at Portage & Main Saturday morning.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The first of 2,500 free t-shirts are given away to participants in Winnipeg's attempt to create the largest living flag at Portage and Main this morning.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The first of 2,500 free t-shirts are given away to participants in Winnipeg's attempt to create the largest living flag at Portage and Main this morning.

Arms reached up above the crowd in attempts to capture a shot of the sea, but the only picture that could accurately reflect the size of was taken from the top of the skyscraper at 201 Portage Avenue.

This was the first time the photo was taken at Portage & Main. Due to the size of the crowd and the shape of the intersection, participants formed in a maple leaf instead of the flag shape of years' past.

This is the seventh year of the event and Winnipeg owns the title for Canada's largest living flag in five of the past six years. This year, Winnipeg's 3,600 participants will hold the honour of being Canada's largest living maple leaf.

The leaf was a multicultural mosaic—something participants like to see.

"There's every possible representation of citizens of Canada here. That always gets me. Then when everyone sings 'O Canada,' you just feel like, 'okay, this is the greatest place on earth,'" said Laura Mikuska, a regular at the annual living flag events.

It was a celebration, but also a reminder that there's work yet to be done, according to Mayor Brian Bowman.

"Let's make sure while we celebrate 150 years as a nation together, that we also look forward and re-commit ourselves to making sure the next 150 years are even more just, stronger, and freer for every single Canadian," he said.

For Lorraine Kehler, a Métis woman who partakes in the living flag each year, July 1 marks progress.

"Canada Day is resilience — we've come a long ways," she said. "We've really worked hard. We've got a long ways to go still."

Kehler is pleased there's been more talk about indigenous people and reconciliation this year.

MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette sang an honour song for the crowd after explaining its relevance.

"I know some days we can get a little angry sometimes with each other... I just really want us to remember that we're all here in this together," he said.

Together, the participants re-affirmed their Canadian beliefs by taking the oath of citizenship. Twenty-eight-time paralympic medallist Tim McIsaac led the oath with Bowman.

"Standing shoulder to shoulder today, we are celebrating our love for our country but also appreciating the values that bind us together as a nation," said Chelsea Thomson, manager of marketing and communication for The Forks.

The living maple leaf then joined voices for 'O Canada' and 'Happy Birthday,' which was punctuated with the roar of a Hercules, a military plane that soared just above the buildings to the cheers of the crowd.

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History

Updated on Saturday, July 1, 2017 at 11:52 AM CDT: Photo added.

11:59 AM: Reordered photos.

12:20 PM: Updated with quotes.

1:46 PM: Time lapse added.

3:01 PM: Story fixed, photos reordered.

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