Move over, CN Tower – make room for the smoke stack.
Flin Flon’s Culture Days event finished higher in national event rankings than ever before, according to Culture Days statistics released on Nov. 2. In total, Flin Flon ranked second in the country in overall events held, finishing only behind Winnipeg overall and finishing higher than any other Canadian community – including Toronto, which finished third.
With a population of 5,185 in the last federal census, Flin Flon may seem outgunned on paper, going up against the largest city in Canada – in total, 2,731,571 people live in Toronto, more than 500 times the numbers in Flin Flon. Nonetheless, Flin Flon’s Culture Days festivities topped Ontario’s capital, surprising Flin Flon Arts Council cultural coordinator and Culture Days organizer Crystal Kolt.
“I told the national office that we had it out on our LED sign – ‘We beat Toronto!’” she said.
“It’s got to be something in the history books for Culture Days.”
This year, Culture Days played host to around 140 events across Flin Flon, including the Wild Things Outdoor Market, Dancing Down Main Street and the Wild Rice Cabaret.
“I actually am surprised. We’re doing the best we can and we’re having lots of fun with it, but we just assumed that, at one point, one of these great cities is going to make a great jump forward. I was really, really keeping quiet about that because I thought it was going to happen this year,” said Kolt.
In recent years, Flin Flon has punched well above its weight class in national Culture Days rankings. Last year, the Flin Flon event placed third in Canada, while the 2016 edition of Culture Days finished fourth nationally.
According to Mercedes Findlay with the national Culture Days office, Flin Flon can be used as an example of a cultural success story.
“Looking at other cities with much larger populations, it sort of seems somewhat impossible. How could a town with a much smaller population do it?” she said.
“At the same time, it is exciting because this is exactly what Culture Days is about. It’s really a grassroots, community-driven initiative. Flin Flon ended up being this perfect example of how it doesn’t matter what the size of the place is, it doesn’t matter how many people are there. It’s more about their enthusiasm and their dedication to putting on a really great weekend. It’s more exciting than anything else. It’s at first surprising, then it’s awesome.”
As far as next year’s event goes, Kolt said the planning stage hasn’t begun in earnest yet, adding that she plans to step down from the Flin Flon Arts Council for two months next summer to undergo a religious pilgrimage.
“I haven’t even finished my final report yet. The next thing is getting people together and figuring out how we’re going to do that, for a number of reasons,” she said.
“The great thing this year that we knew was going to happen was the bad weather on the Saturday. Now, we kind of know what that’s like. That’s been a really interesting opportunity to look at what worked, what didn’t work, what we want to do next year.”
Kolt added the success of the event proves Flin Flon’s worth as a cultural hub – not only for northern Manitoba, but for Canada as a whole.
“It proves that we are still a hub, a provincial hub, really. It’s quite extraordinary. The thing I love about Culture Days is that it is a national event. We know some of these things ourselves, what we’re trying to achieve and all the things with arts in the community. To really have it on a national level, it’s really amazing,” she said.
“As different as we think we might be, we might be more the same than we are different, whether you’re in a small town or a big city.”
Meanwhile, Findlay said national organizers will cite Flin Flon’s success as a major point over the next few months.
“Some of the executives will be attending a series of conferences in the next few months, and they always bring up Flin Flon. It’s this perfect example of what the whole thing is about,” she said.