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Short Story and Poem Contest Engaging Community for Upcoming Icelandic Festival

Tucked in the town of Gimli on Lake Winnipeg’s western shore, a summer festival is held to celebrate Icelandic culture. The community’s first European settlers were Icelanders who were part of the New Iceland settlement in Manitoba, with the first Icelandic Festival held in Winnipeg in 1890. It was later moved to Gimli in 1932, and has been held there ever since.

In anticipation of the festival, a poetry and short story contest is held, inviting writers worldwide to showcase their creativity in the written arts. Angela Collin and Kaela Jacobson run the contest and are always so encouraged by the efforts people go into creating these literary artworks, sending the chosen pieces to Winnipeg to be judged.

“It’s really exciting. It’s always nice to read them as soon as they come in. You try to decide for yourself who will be chosen, and it’s always a surprise who gets picked. When you tell people they win, that’s always fun.”

This year’s theme is the Spirit of Iceland, a theme that could mean many different things to many different people. For Collins, it’s a very spiritual place.

“The Northern Lights, the brightness, and bringing everything into words is difficult. The spirit there is just undeniable. I’ve never been there, but I will make it there one day.”

On top of monetary prizes, the winner’s work, along with some honourable mentions, is published in the Icelandic Connection magazine. Participants also have the opportunity to read their creations at Music and Poetry in the Park. Successful entries will be published in the festival program and/or on the festival website. The contest comprised short stories and poetry in youth and all age categories. With submissions worldwide, Collin says you never know what you will get, but getting the winnings to someone halfway around the globe can be challenging. However, this is not a bad challenge to have.

The contest has a secondary component, getting people engaged and involved even before the festival begins, and an opportunity to reach people to become volunteers for the larger event, especially with this being the first time back since the pandemic.

“The festival is always looking for volunteers. There’s always a need,” says Collins. “There are so many jobs that need help, and it’s a lot of manpower to let people know where to go, helping with directions, helping with the entertainment or the contests.”

Volunteering is a highly fulfilling experience, adds Collins. It’s rewarding, a chance to meet new people, and she encourages people to try it out.

The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba takes place in Gimli from July 29 – August 1.

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U Multicultural.

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