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Inaugural Brandon summer festival highlights growing multicultural community

Brandon’s first multicultural summer festival drew hundreds to the city’s central park to celebrate the community’s growing diversity.

“Brandon is getting more multicultural,” said Kerselin Fumier, vice-chair of the Westman Multicultural Festival, which was held at the Riverbank Discovery Centre on Saturday.

‘”[It keeps] growing, so we need to show the community … our culture.”

The festival is normally held once a year in the winter and lasts three days.

But this year, organizers wanted to try something new.

Two people stand in a field watching a performance.
Maria Alvarado Garcia, left, and Lindsay Hernandez Flores watch a performance at the festival. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Gautam Srivastava, secretary of the Westman Multicultural Festival, said the last time the organization hosted the winter festival was before COVID-19 hit in 2020. 

He said jumping into a three-day festival after not hosting one for so long would have been challenging, which is why they decided to plan a lower-scale event for this summer.

“This gave a chance to reorganize, regroup, get our communities back together again,” Srivastava said.

“This is gonna help boost the energy of our community to get behind the festival again.”

The festival hosted nine different pavilions – Ukraine, India, Scotland, Métis, Jamaica, Philippines, Mexico, El Salvador and Ireland, according to its website. Each pavilion was set to perform twice during the 12-hour long gathering.

Srivastava said the summer event gives the community a glimpse of what’s to come for the first winter festival since the pandemic hit, which is planned for February 8 to 10 next year.

Dancers twirl their partners on a stage.
Ukrainian dancers were among performers from eight other pavilions. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

“It’s gonna be … bigger and better,” he said.

“Groups have had a chance to learn from what they did before the pandemic and then react to a post-pandemic world, and there’s a lot of new communities coming into Brandon that are going to be represented coming up in 2024.”

The city welcomed 3,560 immigrants from 2017 to 2021, including 780 in 2021 alone, Economic Development Brandon says on its website.

A young girl makes a heart shape with her hands during a dance performance.
Erika Gasuliak dances a tribute to Ukraine during the festival. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Srivastava said job opportunities have attracted people from all over the world to move to the Wheat City.

“People need to understand who their neighbours are, who their friends are, and a festival like this can do that,” he said.

“Being able to see what they represent and their different cultures will open up conversations,” Srivastava added.

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