Folklorama is a two week long, yearly, citywide event in Winnipeg where all the cultural centers offer up demonstrations of their music, dance, food, and a cultural display.
According to the guy who M.C’d the event (Master of Ceremonies), the event had been yearly since 1970, when it had been a one time event intended to celebrate the Province of Manitoba’s 100 year anniversary, but had been so popular that they decided to make it a city tradition.
It was just a happy accident that I saw this cultural event. I was road-tripping from my last stay in Vancouver Island, British Columbia on my way to Stratford, Ontario via the Trans-Canada Highway, and had stopped in Winnipeg ostensibly to catch up with an old friend whom I haven’t seen since we first met in a summer camp in Israel (sponsored by the IDF) way back when I was 16 years old. My friend, Tamar (who had always been deeply involved in Israeli folk dance) is now the Assistant Executive Director of the Rady JCC (Jewish Community Center), in Winnipeg her home town. I had called her and told her I would be passing through, but the timing was such that she was like, “I’m really overwhelmed this week with work, we’ve got this event going on that will keep me busy all day… but you can stop by and see it if you want.”
So, when I FINALLY arrived in Winnipeg (it was like a 6.5 hour drive from my last stop — I was really mentally exhausted), the event had already started; but, Tamar and I had kept in touch as I drove (YAY for the new integrated blue tooth phone system where the whole thing pops up on a nice easy to navigate screen… I love technology). I negotiated my way to the JCC (again YAY for the car’s GPS system), only to find a small group of pro-Gaza protestors out front, and police guarding the entrance.
I suppose I should not have been surprised (growing up Jewish you sort of learn to expect this), but there was a television crew there (here’s a link that includes what he filmed).
After that I had a little chat with the little crowd that had formed across the street in front of the JCC, who seemed to be keeping an eye on the protestors; among them was a woman who looked to be staff. She was, and she texted my friend, and then took my inside to where the performance was happening, and told me to wait there till my friend could come by to see me.
It was a performance by the Chai Folk ensamble, the same group that in her younger days my friend Tamar had performed with, and then went on to be one of the directors of, for a while, before she handed over the batton to the next generation.
And I found this video from the JCC’s 2012 Folklorama performance which includes an interview with my friend Tamar!!
A little bit later my friend finally got some free time and came by to me; at first glace I didn’t recognize her, at least until I heard her voice (while we haven’t seen each other in 35+ years, we have kept in touch by phone). There were in fact THREE performances that day, and between the first and second showing she and I had a little chat, but it was difficult because folks kept coming to her (like I said, she was managing the event).
That said, I was really impressed with Winnipeg’s JCC, I think it’s one of the nicer ones I’ve ever seen. They’ve integrated an old historic building, which Tamar told me used to be part of a military base, with new construction which houses a salt water swimming pool and an impressive looking gym.