re-enactments bring history to life

We’re continuing our quest to take in as many Interlake events this season as possible. The Bucket List of things to do in Manitoba’s Interlake Region is slowly shrinking!

The Viking Re-enactment at the Gimli Icelandic Festival and the Re-enactment of the Signing of Treaty One at Lower Fort Garry are amazing events, and reinforced the enhancing factor that re-enactments can bring to any historic venue.

I’d been to both these venues before, but not for a long time. The Viking Village you will find on the shores of Lake Winnipeg–just steps from the glorious Viking statue in Gimli–was added to the Gimli Icelandic Festival (officially known as Islendingadagurinn) several years ago, and what a welcome addition it is!

The Viking statue in Gimli is a landmark of this beautiful harbour town.

There are approximately 90 “Vikings” within the Viking village, who are in effect, Viking enthusiasts from throughout North America who make their way to the Gimli Icelandic Festival and other similar events to act out various aspects of Viking life from the days of Eric the Red and Leif Ericson (Old Norse: Leifr Eiríksson) as members of Vikings Vinland. They actually live on the site for the week of the festival and are not paid staff, but rather real people who, for that moment in time, are living as the Vikings would have lived.

It’s really fascinating watching them roast rabbit over an open fire, grind wheat into flour, carve wood, sew leather, spin-weave in just the fashion used by Vikings, Saxons, Normans, and Celts of the 10th century. Learn more about this group of crafty individuals known as Vinland Vikings here. They are part of a global network said on their brochure to be “the oldest and largest Dark Ages living history society in the world.” It’s free to attend the Viking Village in Gimli and well worth your while. Plan on it for the August long weekend every year. More on the Gimli Icelandic Festival at: www.icelandicfestival.com.

Our next experience with re-enactors was at the Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site. Our timing was impeccable as we had the pleasure of not only visiting all the permanent buildings in the fort, but also witnessing some amazing aboriginal dancers and a play written by award-winning playwright, Ian Ross to commemorate the signing of Treaty One in 1871 between the Ojibway, Swampy Cree and the Crown.

Lower Fort Garry was built on the banks of the Red River north of Winnipeg during the 1840’s and encompasses more than a dozen buildings. Learn how blacksmithing, weaving, and other 19th century daily tasks were done by a troop of well-trained re-enactors who make you think that you have stepped back in time as you explore the lovely grounds. The re-enactments at Lower Fort Garry are performed by paid staff of Parks Canada who do a great job of stepping into their roles.

We ended our visit with a late lunch at the terrific Riverview Cafe, right on site at the fort. They try to feature local specialties and produce. The pulled pork was terrific. Find out more about Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site of Canada online at: www.pc.gc.ca which is the site for Parks Canada. Search Lower Fort Garry for rates and hours.

Have you experienced any historic sites at which re-enactors made the difference in bringing the period to life for you? One of our favourites is the Fort Louisbourg Historic Site in Nova Scotia, but these two Manitoba sites I’ve mentioned are every bit as engaging.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. Looking forward to hearing from you, and to seeing what trail you will be following this summer.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

10 Responses

  1. cathy says:

    It is truly amazing at the "little towns" one can travel through in the Interlake. I spent a couple summers doing this when I first started University. My friend, Priya, who moved here from India was amazed at the things I thought were so simple. We went to Gimli, Lower Fort Garry,and Selkirk Rodeo (which is a fine line for somebody of her religion).
    Being close to historic areas is one of the reasons I love the Interlake and have no intention of moving… ever!

  2. wizardofwords says:

    Yes, it's a real pleasure sharing our Interlake treasures with visitors. I try to do that as much as I can – in person, and via this blog with those who can't be here! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and enthusiasm, Cathy!

  3. MOLLYC says:

    This vacation is JUST the kind my husband adores! Me, not so much! I prefer cities with great restaurants, theatre, and lots of shopping. And those reinactors? OMG, Charlie would just LOVE to engage them in lengthy conversations. I am getting a headache just thinking about it! Wonderful pictures! So glad to be here again; thanks for reminding me that I have been remiss! love to you, molly

  4. wizardofwords says:

    We just may have to team up for a trip, Molly. Your husband sounds just like mine. Loves history and heritage. (I love luxury, nature and culture. And yes … shopping!) Like yours, my hubby loves to stand and talk to each and every participant/exhibitor. Almost to the point where not too many of his friends like to go to events or museums with him. It takes hours! Maybe we could team them up! Reg has been trying for about 3 years to get someone to go to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn MI with him. So far … no takers! I hear it's an amazing facility, but for a day. Not 3-4 days as I'm sure it would take Reg. We should team them up!

  5. Christine Peets says:

    Your photos really add to this, and help to share your experience, Doreen. I've visited a few sites like this, and it's always great when there are re-enactors along with the staff bringing the history to life. It can make what might be seen as dull facts really take on new meaning.
    We lived in Prescott, ON and often visited Fort Wellington, where various British battles would be re-enacted. One of the best ones had "the Yanks" (re-enactors from the US)) arriving by boat and then "storming the gates" of the Fort. Adults and kids alike were thrilled with the staging.
    Re-enactors take their roles seriously and research them well, which helps the visitor understand life in the time period being portrayed.
    Thanks for sharing this bit of Canadian/Manitoba history.

  6. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks for your comment, Christine. Fort Wellington sounds intriguing. (Reminds me of what we saw in Louisbourg, NS. Great fun, all while being educational.)

    Your comment reinforces how much there is so much to see in ON. Will have to get back there again soon! Hope you enjoy the rest of the summer. It sure is flying by!

  7. Linda Rice says:

    Doreen! Thank you so much for the very lovely write-up of our Vikings! I'm so glad that you enjoyed your visit in our 'village'. Your words really convey your feelings of being both entertained as well as educated, which is the first goal of Vinland Vikings. We know we cannot begin to come close to representing actual historical practices, because there is just so much that we don't know and never can. But we do all work very hard in researching the history of the culture and then trying to bring our knowledge to life, which we then love to share with everyone.

    Hope to see you there next year, and please introduce yourself!
    -Linda Rice
    http://www.vinlandvikings.org

  8. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks for joining in the conversation, Linda. And for the great work you and other members of Vinland Vikings are doing. I can't wait for next summer and the opportunity to see the battle re-enactment. We missed that part this year due to timing (and competing events!) but hear there were real comical aspects to it in order to keep it light and pleasant to watch vs being dark and bloody! Ciao for now!

  9. I’ve been to Louisbourg in Nova Scotia and as a kid, I recall going to Upper Canada Village for a school trip. I was awesome!
    Margarita Ibbott recently posted…30 Rock– visiting the home of The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, Friends, Today Show LINKY #WordlessWednesdayMy Profile

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