Every August long weekend, the community of Gimli, Man., fills up with thousands of visitors who are gathered to take in the sights, sounds, tastes and activities of the long-running Isledingadagurinn — the Manitoba Icelandic Festival.
This year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizers to make a few changes.
“Definitely things have changed. We’ve tried to be very creative and we’re taking it virtual,” festival board member Sigrun Asmundsson told 680 CJOB.
“We have organized a number of events that families and people can participate in safely and socially distancing.”
Asmundsson, who was born in Iceland but raised in Canada, said the festival is an important date on the calendar for families like hers — and one of the benefits of the virtual festival is that it can reach well beyond Gimli’s core group of annual visitors.
“We’ve put a lot of work into this and we can see that our participation is expanding past Manitoba,” she said.
“We’ve got people from across the globe, actually, who are planning to join us over the weekend and explore some of the events online, as well as across Canada. It’s going to be different, but we’re making the best of it.”
The virtual festival packs contests, educational sessions, family games, live entertainment and more into four days of “heima er best”, or “Icelandic at home.”
Gimli Mayor Lynn Greenberg said the festival means a lot to his community — with between 50,000 and 60,000 visitors visiting the beachfront town over the weekend every year.
“Over the years, and rightly so, people come to Gimli this August long weekend,” he said.
“People come to the festival and they enjoy it … and people also use that weekend for things like family reunions as well.
“It really is a big weekend. It means a lot.”