Aboriginal Manito Ahbee Festival: the biggest round dance has a place for everyone
Winnipeg is vying to be the Prairie city with the biggest round dance Thursday in the lead-up to the annual aboriginal Manito Ahbee Festival.
Manito Ahbee is the province's glitziest showcase for aboriginal music and culture. It takes place Aug. 16 to 21.
An intertribal call to dance means everyone, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, is invited into the circle. It is one of five events designed to draw in public participation to this year's Manito Ahbee events.
The other public invitations to dance include the grand entries at noon and 7 p.m. for the competition powwows at the MTS Centre on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"The whole point of the festival is to share it with everybody. Manito Ahbee is a festival that showcases aboriginal culture but it's not a festival for just aboriginal people," publicist Nancy Gregory said.
The ninth annual festival is shifting to a new seasonal time slot this year, moving to a summer schedule from the fall to coincide with the North American powwow trail.
The powwow trail is a fixture on Canadian First Nations and American reservations from the Atlantic to the Pacific every year.
The festival's centrepieces are the same -- the red carpet Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards Sunday and a competition powwow Tuesday and Wednesday. The powwow is expected to draw hundreds of aboriginal dancers from Manitoba and beyond. Cash prizes for dancers are worth a total of $125,000 this year.
Both the awards night and the two-day powwow, with an aboriginal marketplace of artists and artisan work for sale, are staged at the MTS Centre. Family day passes are $45. Singles are $16.
The festival will skip Monday to make room for American teen heartthrob singer Selena Gomez at the MTS Centre.
There are a number of other firsts this year, intended to broaden the scope of the annual event.
Those firsts include the Oh My Gospel (OMG) Jamboree at the Holy Trinity Church across from the Millennium Library on Saturday. That event includes iconic aboriginal performer Ray St. Germain, who is to be awarded a lifetime aboriginal achievement award the next night at the main awards.
A M©tis jigging contest was also added to the festival lineup for the first time this year.
For the ninth year in a row, aboriginal actor and director Lorne Cardinal will host the festival and the awards night.
The theme this year is "ignite your spirit" and the kickoff is on Friday with a press conference at 11 a.m. Gregory said there are plans to light a sacred fire at The Fork's Oodena Circle Friday and hold a pipe ceremony to open the festival.
But the festival this year really begins Thursday with the gigantic round dance on Edmonton Street.
The streets will be closed from Graham Avenue to Portage Avenue late Thursday morning to accommodate the arrival of traditional dancers, drums and the public starting at 11:45 a.m.