For audiences like Missus, Lil and myself, the Manito Ahbee festival is a truly unique feast for the the senses with music, dance, and festivities that don't come together anywhere else in the world but here.
For four days in downtown Winnipeg (September 10-14), Manito Ahbee brings together nations from all across North America who come to compete, share and celebrate their distinct cultures through a variety of mediums.
Last year we took 'Lil out to most of the events (there are so many!) and she was enthralled, especially with the Aboriginal People's Choice Music Awards (APCMAs) and the International Powwow.
The APCMAs, which takes place at the MTS Centre on Friday night, September 12 (7-10 pm), is one of the best live events you will see in this city. The performances last year were incredible, especially Winnipeg's Indian City (an all-star collective of musicians fronted by Vince Fontaine) whose soaring music could barely be contained in the arena. It is of little wonder that they took home "Best Pop CD" for their album Supernation and that once again they are nominated across several categories for their new album Colours.
The way the MTS Centre gets transformed for the APCMAs is absolutely captivating; the massive, colourful stage adds to the spectacle of the performers and presenters (if you can't make it down to the MTS Centre for it, you can catch it live on APTN), while the red carpet event beforehand (it runs from 5-6 pm on Donald at Portage) gives off that whole star-quality air.
'Lil for one will forever be a fan of the APCMA red carpet -- last year she was able to get Adam Beach's autograph along with one from her favourite new singer, Ali Fontaine, who last year took home several APCMAs.
But while these awards grab a lot of the headlines around Manito Ahbee, the whole festival really provides our family with a weekend's worth of entertainment and cultural experiences.
On Saturday and Sunday the MTS Centre plays host to the Indigenous Marketplace and Trade Show, where you can browse through and buy one-of-a-kind handmade clothes, art, and accessories from First Nations across North America. There are also performances going on in tandem with the trade show, with some of the the most high-energy dance contests happening throughout the day; be sure to see the jigging contest -- the way these kids can move their feet is incredible!
But hands down, our family's favourite pick at Manito Ahbee is the International Powwow, which takes place in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday, also at the MTS Centre (12 pm-11 pm). You'll see a host of First Nations from across the continent competing in various categories from jingle, to prairie chicken, to fancy bustle (just to name a few).
During the powwow the energy in the arena really takes hold of you; the pounding drums and singing is enthralling, while the colourful traditional garments and movement of the dancers is truly awe-inspiring.
'Lil, being still quite young, doesn't normally have much in the way of an attention span aside from the ability to watch Frozen over and over. And yet last year when we took her to the International Powwow, she watched for hours, eyes fixed on all the dancers circling round, while her feet kept beat with the rhythmic drumming.
It was an eye-opening and immersive experience for our whole family, and we can't wait for it all again this weekend.
For a full schedule of the Manito Ahbee festival check out their website.
We are giving away 3 tickets to the Manito Ahbee Festival for all day Sunday (includes the International Powwow and Tradeshow). All you have to do is tell us below what your favourite Manito Ahbee event is. We will draw for the tickets on Wednesday afternoon.