More than 4,000 guests attended Steinbach’s Canada Day celebrations at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) on Sunday, July 1. The City of Steinbach and MHV joined forces once again in hosting this Canada Day party. With this event, we create opportunities for residents, as well as guests visiting our community, to celebrate the good things that life in Canada has to offer.
There were numerous opportunities for both adults and children to enjoy the day. A barnyard full of animals, the flag-raising ceremony, barrel-train and wagon rides, live entertainment, great food, and lots of fresh air and sunshine kept people occupied from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Then at 8:00 PM entertainment and food were featured at the evening session at the Steinbach Soccer Park. The day of celebration was capped with a spectacular fireworks display.
The mission of MHV is to remember, to interpret, and to retell the stories of the Mennonite people who have come from Russia to Canada since 1874. During the various migrations, numerous Mennonites have chosen to make Canada their home. In many cases that decision was based on available farmland, together with religious and political freedoms. Many of them have made significant contributions to Canadian society, flourishing in agriculture, education, business, and the arts.
Our guests at MHV on July 1 represented many different ethnicities and religions. One of our volunteers noted that there seemed to be an unusual number of guests who were not able to converse in English. From a show of hands during the flag-raising ceremony, an estimated 10% – 25% of attendees where not born in Canada and chose to live here. While some of these may have been guests from another country, no doubt many were local residents who have arrived in Canada recently.
While the Southeast hasn’t always been viewed as being open and welcoming to all kinds of people, recent evidence would suggest otherwise. Some years ago we heard that the City of Steinbach is the second most ethnically diverse community in Manitoba, second only to the City of Winnipeg. The significant diversity of guests who have been attending our Canada Day festivals seems to bear that out. Many of the churches in the Southeast have sponsored refugees over the years, contributing to our current multi-ethnic population.
While MHV represents a particular people group in the stories it tells, it also identifies with other people groups who have fled persecution and have been accepted as refugees in various of our communities. MHV continues to be open to guests and members from various backgrounds. Our museum is a place where many people are reminded of things from their past. And last Sunday in particular, it was a place where people could come to celebrate their good fortune to be Canadian residents.