One of the important things I learned when I came to work at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) in 2009 is that Manitoba celebrates its “birthday” on May 12 every year, and that this celebratory day is designated as Manitoba Day. I also found out that museums are strongly encouraged to make it a special day by hosting activities that will help the public commemorate this special event.
As it turned out, MHV’s scheduled Manitoba Day events this year experienced cold and rainy weather, worse than we’ve seen in years. Despite that, we had more students and parents participating in the day’s celebrations than we’ve had for quite some time.
I learned long before I came to work at MHV that one cannot control the weather, nor predict it with absolute certainty. So we have yet to see what the Victoria Day weather will be like. Manitobans seem to have a sense that the May long weekend is notorious for inclement weather.
This is the weekend on which we have typically held our Spring on the Farm festival, and poor weather has prevailed on that weekend for quite a few years now. In fact, in 2013 the day was basically rained out. In 2014 we had a rainy day which resulted in attendance at about half the normal level. Last year, after a snowfall at night and the promise of a cold and windy day, we spread salt on the ice at the front entrance walk and formally cancelled our festival. It was surprising how many quests still came out, despite the weather.
While we know that we can’t dodge bad weather simply by moving an event from one date to another, it was the weather factor that prompted us to examine this traditional spring festival and consider other options for celebration. The Southeast Implement Collectors, who have staged their vintage tractor show at our Spring on the Farm festivals, were also considering alternate ways of accomplishing their goals, so together we decided to make a number of changes.
For MHV, there were actually two factors other than weather that finally caused us to make changes. One was the fact that this festival was always held on Manitoba’s first “summer” long weekend of the year. This meant that long-awaited camping trips and excursions to the cottage took potential festival attendees away from the area. So it seemed to us that our event would be better attended if it took place on a regular May Saturday when fewer people might be heading out of town. As it turned out, our research revealed that every Saturday in May is annually taken up by other significant community events, for which we don’t care to create competition. So we ruled out that option.
The other reason for considering change was the fact that our labour costs are significantly higher on a Statutory Holiday than on a regular day, not to mention the fact that our staff and volunteers are already asked to work all of the other long weekends of the summer.
Our deliberations led to the decision to increase our emphasis on Manitoba Day this year and to look for an appropriate Saturday when we might do some specific gardening and field-work demonstrations. These latter events will be dependent on weather conditions, so may or may not happen. Additionally, the Southeast Implement Collectors decided to schedule their vintage tractor show for Sunday, June 12, the day after our Tractor Trek fundraiser with the Eden Foundation.
I grew up on a farm and have a good understanding of the farmers’ dependence on the weather. Operating outdoor festivals is a similarly weather-dependent enterprise. So, like the farmer who puts seed in the ground and then waits on the One who controls the weather, we make our plans and try to exercise similar faith. Like the farmer who also diversifies his income sources, we schedule a number of festivals and other events throughout the summer to mitigate our risk. And if all our festival days experience good weather, everyone wins and we are thankful.
Calendar of Events
- May 23 – Victoria Day – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
- May 29 – Auxiliary Faspa – 2:30 PM
- June 11 – Tractor Trek fundraising event
- June 12 – Tractor Show – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM