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Culture Days 2022 earns national honour, biggest of kind among small towns

Flin Flon's edition of Culture Days this year has been ranked as the biggest of its kind among towns and rural areas across Canada.
P39 Culture Days 1
The Wild Things Market included several tents and small businesses set up among the trees at Creekside Park Sept. 24.

Flin Flon's edition of Culture Days this year has been ranked as the biggest of its kind among towns and rural areas across Canada.

Flin Flon Culture Days 2022 was ranked in the top spot of Culture Days Canada's top participating communities among towns and rural areas, according to the group in a release earlier this week.

Flin Flon's edition of the event has been decorated in the past, finishing among the biggest Culture Days events across the country including larger cities, but this year's honour takes on a new meaning for lead organizer Crystal Kolt. Gone are the days of Flin Flon Culture Days including over a hundred unique events in a short time, but coming back after two years where COVID-19 either curtailed or outright cancelled plans, Kolt said this year's event was special, particularly because of child and school involvement.

"I think the reason we did so well was because of the involvement of the schools this year. We're all just trying to get back into the swing of things and making it possible so that all our kids in our communities have a chance to experience some kind of cultural event in the year," Kolt said.

This year's Culture Days event brought back typical festival fare, such as the Wild Things Market at Creekside Park, and brought in new entertainment and performances, such as the festival-closing performance by the Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers at the R.H. Channing Auditorium.

Flin Flon was not the only northern Manitoba centre to make the cut - The Pas' Culture Days celebrations finished third in the same classification, with only Brockville, Ont. - metro population 38,553, well over five times the combined populations of Flin Flon, Creighton and Denare Beach - keeping the top two from being an all-northern sandwich.

"That's a huge bit of recognition nationally for northern Manitoba and the arts scene in northern Manitoba," Kolt said.

"I want to highlight that because it is pretty exciting."

Coming out the other end of the pandemic has meant changes for arts and cultural events, Kolt said, including how many people are willing to turn out for events, who are willing to participate, volunteer or even host events. Organizing this year's event took, in Kolt's words, a 'leap of faith' to see whether the public would come back.

"I'm kind of surprised actually and gratified, because coming out of COVID-19, whether it's been Blueberry Jam or touring events or Culture Days, it's been really difficult to try to read what the community and the province were ready and able to do. In every aspect, whether it's volunteerism or whether it's getting out to activities or events, whether it's actually putting on an event or performance," she said.

"We kind of launched forward with a leap of faith, because even a few months ago, it was weird. Eight months ago, when we were planning Culture Days and these events, it was like, 'Well, will things be locked down again? Will things be open? Are people going to be afraid to go? What do we do? How do we do it?'"

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