Driving north to Dauphin from Riding Mountain National Park, I began to realize just how enormous the national park really was. I realized that my experiences in the park hardly exceeded beyond the immediate Wasagaming area, and that I seriously needed to come back to do some of the famed wilderness hikes I was driving by, that many people had recommended to me through social media.
I was also shocked at how steeply you descend out of Riding Mountain and back down to prairie, it truly feels like you’ve left one world and have entered another. The name Riding Mountain does make sense after all.
On my first morning in Dauphin, I presented a social media workshop with a group of local business owners and tourism operators at Dauphin City Hall. It was here that morning where I met Mel of Tourism Dauphin, Carissa of the City of Dauphin, Jessica of the Dauphin Herald, as well as local Manitoba ambassador Celes of Earth Rhythms, who would be joining me, as well as a few others (including Manitoba blogger Little Gray Bird!) after the workshop for an afternoon of fun activities around town by bicycle. This wasn’t your ordinary bicycle, however!
Say hello to CUBi, the conference bike! Mel had booked this conference bike from the local Credit Union (hence CUBi). The whole concept of the 7 seater conference bike is to facilitate discussion while you’re cycling. Everyone faces each other, and there’s a basket in the middle for your bags (or ice and beer, as we joked). Everyone pedals, but only one person steers, and it’s an absolute hoot! There aren’t that many in the world, and apparently there are only two of them in Canada. One of them’s in storage in Montreal, and the other is here in Dauphin!
Not only was is hilariously fun to ride, but as we were riding it along the Dauphin city streets, it got everyone’s attention in the best way. People would wave at us, stare with their jaws open, and laugh as they saw us giggling along. You couldn’t help but smile and laugh with glee the entire time you were on it, and everyone who saw us coming were envious at all the fun we were obviously having. What a way to be introduced to Dauphin!
Watson Art Centre
Our first stop on our Dauphin tour was the Watson Art Centre, the hub of Dauphin’s arts community. Located in a provincial heritage site, there’s a gorgeous stage upstairs where often touring bands will perform, and down below there was an art gallery, and a children’s summer art class in progress. It’s such a beautiful facility and a cultural gem for Dauphin.
Fort Dauphin Museum
Our next stop was at the Fort Dauphin Museum, where you can explore a variety of exhibits, from pioneering life in Manitoba, to prehistoric fossils, learn about First Nations culture, as well as the explorers and the fur trade era. Inside the museum we learned how to make ice cream (with each of us taking a turn churning it!) and got to explore the various buildings and exhibits on site. While we were enjoying our ice cream, Mel presented a gift to me of various Dauphin and Manitoba products. It was such a sweet and unexpected surprise!
Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Resurrection
Dauphin is famous for its Ukrainian community, and you can’t say you’ve been to Dauphin without experiencing just a little bit of it. Therefore, our next stop on the tour was the stunning Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Resurrection.
We had a private tour by the extremely charismatic Jerry, who used to be an altar boy here, and used to attend this church regularly with his Mother. His stories were both amusing and poignant, which only added to the already-breathtaking space.
My mom’s side of the family is Ukrainian, and my grandparents were both born in Manitoba, so to have a traditional Ukrainian feast here in Dauphin was something I had been looking forward to since the beginning of this trip. This VIP dinner in particular was being hosted to celebrate the start of Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival. It was such a treat to be served by Ukrainian Babas and volunteers – borscht, perogies, and cabbage rolls. It felt like warm hug.
But the funniest thing that happened was right before our dinner. When we rode our conference bike up to the entrance of the church hall, there was the Premier of Manitoba, Greg Selinger, speaking with fellow politicians. They took one look at us on CUBi and halted their conversation in awe and wonder. “Hop on! There’s room!” we said. Without missing a beat, Premier Selinger ran over and took a seat on the CUBi, where we proceeded to go for a spin around the parking lot.
Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival
I absolutely loved Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival. Anyone who lives in Canada who has Ukrainian heritage owes themselves a visit, at least once in their life. Ideally more than once. And even if you don’t have an ounce of Ukrainian blood in your body, as long as you’re willing to experience Ukrainian culture, you’ll be welcomed as an honorary Ukrainian for the day!
Amongst the various Ukrainian food and merchandise vendors, I watched a Ukrainian bread-making demonstration, I spent an hour making a pysanka.
I also went into their impressive 11,000 seat hillside amphitheatre to watch traditional Ukrainian dancing .Although I couldn’t take any pictures from the amphitheatre, it was amazing to see all the different costumes and choreography. My mom and her brothers apparently used to do Ukrainian dancing when they were little, as well as my Baba. I couldn’t help but think of them the entire time I was at the festival.
In addition to the performances, food, and vendors, the festival includes the Ukrainian Village, home to the Cossack Camp, the church, as well as pioneer homes and businesses.
The village is also home to Rhodes Hall – home of the Ukrainian Music Hall of Fame!
Of course, one of the wonderful things about attending the Ukrainian Festival is being able to eat two plates of perogies in one day. One for lunch, and one for dinner.
I joined up with Mel and her family for part of the evening, and we enjoyed dinner together. Somebody who I had talked to on Twitter, George, happened to be working at the kitchen that evening and recognized us. He surprised us both with a homemade strawberry fried bannock for dessert. Thanks George!
At the end of the night, once all the main performances at the amphitheatre have ended, everyone heads to the beer gardens and the smaller stages for late night dancing. Everyone, regardless of age, shows up and dances in ways you’d never imagine. It was such an incredible way to end my first, and hopefully not last, Ukrainian Festival.
The biggest thank you ever to Mel at Tourism Dauphin for taking me under your wing and hosting me all throughout my two days in Dauphin. I had so much fun and now have unforgettable memories of our time together! Thanks to Celes, Carissa, George, Jerry, and everyone for your kindness and hospitality. You made me feel at home in Dauphin. It was such an incredible two days!