The Gathering of Nations

Swan Lake, Manitoba, Canada

July 15, 2000


In our travels we are often fortunate in being in the right place at the right time. Such was the case while we were staying in Brandon, Manitoba. We had gone to a Ukrainian restaurant across the street from our campground and saw a poster for "The Gathering of Nations." Well, of course this fascinated us and we found a brochure explaining it. We learned that the "Gathering of Nations", formerly known as the Festival of Nations, is a gathering of the many different nationalities who have settled in the area of South Central Manitoba.
People descended upon this area from all parts of the world as explorers, fur traders, pioneers and settlers and later as immigrants and refugees. The earlier inhabitants
settled alongside the many tribes of the First Nations already occupying much of the vast plains and woodland in Manitoba. These individuals had visions of adventure, wealth, freedom and peace.
These people brought their customs, culture, music and talents, all of which has been inter-woven into an extraordinary Serape encompassing all of the land known as Canada.
Canada is home where they work at living together in harmony with friends and neighbors as they strive to build a stronger nation for future generations. It's a time to remember - a time to celebrate - a time to unite!
After learning all of this how could we resist the lure to find out more. So on July 15 we took a leisurely drive to Swan Lake, Manitoba, to attend "The Gathering." As we looked around we found that they had set up several pavilions. There was: the British Heritage Pavilion, the Belgian Pavilion, the French Pavilion, the Dutch Pavilion, the First Nation Pavilion and the Ukranian-Slavic Pavilion. In order to enter the grounds you were required to pay a small entrance fee and were then given a schedule of entertainment for the day. One of our most difficult decisions of the day was deciding where to go first. However, after looking at the entertainment schedule we found out that there were some Irish dancers due to dance soon, followed shortly by Pipers. Well, Bob and I both love "the pipes" so off we went. As we entered the British Heritage Pavilion we found they had set up tables around the outside of the room showing pictures and wares from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, Bermuda, and South Africa. Also included in each pavilion were samples of food from those countries. Gee, another day of adventurous eating. Darn, what a tough job, but somebody's got to do it, eh? While we were waiting for the Irish Dancers to appear we sampled a strange egg dish, called Scotch Eggs. It was a hardboiled egg surrounded by a sausage mixture. Delicious! Then the dancers appeared. They did a couple of Irish Dances that looked like some that might have been done hundreds of years ago in Ireland. I swear you could almost smell the sea and peat in the air. After they were finished, and while we were waiting for the pipers to make their appearance, we wandered outside to the Heavy Scotch Games. Well, for those of you who have never seen them, they are incredible. I have never been witness before to grown men and WOMEN, throwing telephone poles for competition. The women had their own competition as they only threw small phone poles (about 60 lbs). Fortunately we started talking to a couple near us (Judy Cameron and John Ingram) who seemed to know how the competition was conducted. As it turned out, his son was one of the competitors. The men pick up the caber (the phone pole), run a distance with it, and then pitch it. The idea is, it lands on one end, flips over and then it has to fall as close to straight out from him as possible. And you've got to remember this, guys, it was all done while wearing a kilt. It was incredible just to watch them pick it up, let alone throw it. After that event that had one where the competitors were required to take a pitchfork, spear a very heavy bag that looked like an extremely large bag of grain and pitch it over a cross bar. As we conversed with Judy and John we happened to mention that the t-shirts they were selling were advertising Bob's favorite beverage, Scotch. We watched the competition for a while longer and were starting back to the building when John came over carrying something in his hands. Turned out he wanted us to have a reminder of our visit and had purchased a t-shirt for Bob with "Famous Grouse" on it. Bob thanked him for his gift and we went on our way to listen to a couple of pipers in the building.


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