Category Archives: manitoba

Getting To Know Mr North

Statue of Tom Lamb by Leo Mol in the Richardson Building Winnipeg

I’ve passed this statue hundreds of times as I walk through the Richardson Building on my way to work so I decided I wanted to find out more about Tom Lamb the man whose name is on the statue’s plaque.

Tom, who would eventually earn the nickname Mr North was born in 1898 in Grand Rapids Manitoba. His British parents went to the north as Anglican missionaries. Tom’s family moved to Moose Lake in 1900 where his Dad built a log cabin and began a fur trading business with local traders.

Tom grew up with Cree children as his companions and learned to speak their language fluently. Tom quit school at the end of grade three to help his Dad with a fish hauling operation he had started.

Tom married Jean Armstrong in 1924 and together they raised six sons and three daughters. Eventually, his children helped operate the fur trading and fishing businesses Tom took over from his Dad.

Photo of Tom Lamb by Richard Harrington from Library and Archives Canada- Photostories Canada site- National Gallery of Canada

Tom instituted a conservation and development plan to increase the declining muskrat and beaver population in the north and in 1935 bought an airplane to help haul fresh fish. He hired a pilot who soon was as busy doing charter work for the government, the RCMP, geologists, oil rig operators and medical evacuations as he was transporting fish.

Tom Lamb with his six sons who all became pilots and worked for Lambair- photo from WikipediaThey learned to fly sitting on their Dad’s lap in the cockpit

In 1937 Tom became a pilot himself and a decade later had purchased a fleet of aircraft with floats and skis that became a thriving northern airline called Lambair. All six of his sons got their pilot licences and flew charter operations throughout the Arctic including Greenland, the Yukon and Alaska.

Lamb Air passengers are ready for a flight. The company motto was “Don’t ask us where we fly. Tell us where you want to go.”- Photo Lamb Family Archive- from Vintage Wings of Canada

By 1959 Lambair had logged more than 1,500,000 air miles, owned twenty planes and employed 40 pilots.

Photo by Richard Harrington from Library and Archives Canada- Photostories Canada site- National Gallery of Canada

At the same time as his airline flourished Tom maintained the fishing and shipping business, his Dad had founded. In the photo above one of the Lamb’s boats is transporting lumber as well as cattle for a ranching operation another one of Tom’s initiatives in the north.

Tom Lamb’s portrait in the Aviation Hall of Fame was created by artist  Irma Sophia Coucill.

Tom Lamb was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba and has been inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame. He died in 1969 and his children carried on his airline business for another decade. He had twenty-four grandchildren. His son Jack chronicled his Dad’s life in the book My Life in the North.

Statue of Tom Lamb in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park

Although the Leo Mol statue in the Richardson Building bears the date 1991, the original piece was poured in 1971. There is another copy of the Tom Lamb statue in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park. A fibreglass version sits in the airport at The Pas and there is another copy in the Canadian embassy in Washington DC. 

Leo Mol said he wanted to show Tom Lamb as a young pilot and he made the propeller in his hands look a bit like a clock because he wanted the statue to take people back in time to the era when Mr Lamb helped open up the north as an aviation pioneer.

Other posts………..

His Dream Came True

Come Take A Trip in My Airship

Dave the Navigator Meets Henry the Navigator



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15 Ways To Use A Métis Sash

Next week I start giving Winnipeg Art Gallery tours of A Hard Birth or Kwaata-nihtaawakihk the exhibit’s name in Michif, the Métis language. A Hard Birth tells the story of Manitoba becoming an official province of Canada 150 years ago.

One of the pieces I am excited to show young visitors is this sash. Saencheur Flayshii is its name in Michif, the Métis language. The sash is on display thanks to the National Gallery in Ottawa. They think it was made in the first half of the 1800s. This kind of sash was very popular in the Red River Valley and orginated with the voyageurs. They were French workers employed to transport furs for the Hudson’s Bay company.

The sashes could be up to three meters long and were made from brightly coloured wool. The one currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery has a popular flame design with diamonds at its centre.

Shooting the Rapids 1879 a painting by Frances Anne Hopkins. The lead paddler is wearing a Metis sash.

Making a sash could take up to two hundred hours. Until the 1800s the sashes were handwoven and sometimes made with plant fibres. It was only later they were woven on looms with wool.

Once when I took a tour of the St. Boniface Museum the guide showed us the heavy bales of fur and told us how the sashes helped to ease the burden of carrying them

The sashes have been used for many things. Here are fifteen I found. There are probably more.

  1. As a support to your back while carrying bales of fur that could weigh more than a hundred pounds. This helped prevent hernias.
  2. As a tumpline to lash your canoe or supplies to your head during portage
  3. Firestarter bags, tobacco pouches, knives and first aid kits were tucked into the sash for carrying
  4. A tourniquet for broken bones
  5. A scarf for your face in winter
  6. A washcloth or towel
  7. A saddle blanket or emergency bridle for your horse
  8. You could tear off the fringes to get pieces of thread to mend your clothes
  9. You could tie keys to the fringes so didn’t lose them
  10. Storing pemmican or other foods
  11. A belt to keep your coat closed.
  12. A rope to tie up your canoe
  13. To mark a bison as someone’s property after it was killed
  14. As a gift to give someone
  15. A symbol of Metis pride at ceremonies and events
This statue on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature shows Louis Riel wearing a Métis sash
In Shelley Niro’s woodcut series Resting With Warriors she shows a woman wearing the traditional sash. I photographed this piece when it was on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in the spring of 2017.

Today the sash is worn by both men and women although originally only men would have worn them.


Other posts…….

An Award Winner Inspires Teens

What A Sash

It’s Louis Riel Day

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Louis Riel Day- Ten Images

A statue of Louis Riel faces the river on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg. Riel is wearing a traditional Metis sash and holds the Manitoba Act in his hand. The act admitted Manitoba as the fifth province to the country of Canada on May 12 of 1870.

It’s Louis Riel Day a holiday first celebrated in 2008 to honour a man who was the leader of the Metis people on the prairies in the 1870s and 1880s and is considered the founder of our province. Louis Riel wanted to preserve and protect Metis land rights and culture from undue influence and direction from the federal government of Canada.     He was elected to Parliament several times.

I decided to search my albums for photos related to the man our province is celebrating today.

The Diaries of Louis Riel is one of the books featured in a sculpture at the Forks in Winnipeg that celebrates the writing of Indigenous authors. The artwork is called Education is the New Bison and was created by Val Vint.

Deeds are not accomplished in a few days, or in a few hours, a century is only a spoke in the wheel of everlasting time.  – Louis Riel

This Louis Riel quote in the shape of a wheel was displayed as a touchstone at the heart of a groundbreaking exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario I visited in 2017 that celebrated the artwork of the Metis as well as other minority groups in Canada. It was called Reframing Nationhood.

Louis Riel’s Metis sash

Louis Riel’s Metis sash is on display at the St. Boniface Museum in Winnipeg. The sashes were first used by the French voyageurs who transported furs for the Hudsons Bay Company. The Metis, a people with both a French and Indigenous heritage, adopted these sashes from the voyageurs and called them ‘un ceinture fleche’ or ‘arrowed belts.’ Today the sash is worn by members of the Metis nation as a symbol of pride. 

Also on display at the St. Boniface Museum is one of Louis Riel’s three coffins.

The esplanade which walkers use to cross the Provencher Bridge in Winnipeg is called The Riel Esplanade in honour of Louis Riel.

At the end of the Provencher Bridge is Joseph Royal Park. It honours Joseph Royal a journalist and lawyer who defended Louis Riel in court when he was accused of treason. He also defended Louis Riel in editorials in his newspaper.

This statue of Louis Riel on the grounds of St. Boniface College once stood on the Manitoba Legislature grounds but was considered too controversial and was replaced by a more conventional one in 1995.

A third Winnipeg statue of Louis Riel sits on the grounds of the St. Boniface Museum. The museum is housed in a former nunnery for the Grey Nuns. The Grey Nuns provided Louis Riel with his early education and they facilitated him going to Montreal to study further at a college there. Louis Riel’s sister Sara joined the order of the Grey Nuns.

Louis Riel is buried on the grounds of the St. Boniface Basilica. According to documentation some 700 people gathered for Louis Riel’s burial service on December 9, 1885. It was a bitterly cold day Eight men wearing Metis sashes and buffalo coats bore his coffin on a six-mile walk from St. Vital to the basilica. By the time they arrived their beards were covered in frost. The pallbearers were followed by a cavalcade of some 75 sleighs.

In 2008 when Manitoba wanted to add another provincial holiday to its calendar school students across the province were invited to submit suggestions for what this day should be called. The winning submission came from Acadia Junior High. Thanks to those young people we are celebrating Louis Riel Day today.

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Acknowledgments Are Important

One of the progressive things Kelvin Goertzen did during his short time as the premier of our province was insure there will be a treaty acknowledgment at the start of Manitoba legislative sittings in the future. It will recognize the fact that the land on which the legislature meets was once the home of Indigenous people. 

Kelvin Goertzen

Right after his appointment Premier Goertzen struck a committee to provide a report on the best way to carry out such an acknowledgment and admitted as House Leader he probably should have made that happen sooner. In a CBC interview, Goertzen said the discovery of the unmarked graves at residential schools was a significant event for him and his family that crystalized the need for a treaty or land acknowledgment. 

Of course, many organizations and institutions have been doing these acknowledgments for a long time.  My church instituted the practice about five years ago.  After we began to have a treaty acknowledgment in our bulletin, on our website, and frequently announce it at the start of our services, we created a colorful brochure to explain our rationale.  I was asked to write the text for the brochure, and it was a good exercise for me. 

I had to research the history of our province and find a way to articulate our church’s goal to recognize the important contributions Indigenous people have made to the geographical area where we worship. In my text, I expressed our church’s desire to learn from the spirituality and culture of our Indigenous neighbors and to work at building a strong respectful relationship with them that would result in reconciliation.        

An art piece called Treaty One by artist Robert Houle – photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

I am employed as a guide by the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and we have done treaty acknowledgments at the start of each of our tours since 2016.  The gallery staff participated in training sessions where we learned all about Treaty One signed in 1874 between Indigenous leaders and the British Crown. 

The Dakota Boat by W. Frank Lynn shows indigenous people observing the arrival of a boat carrying immigrants at the Upper Fort Garry site in Winnipeg- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

The two groups had very different ideas about what the treaty meant. While the Indigenous leaders thought it would protect their way of life and provide a framework for sharing land, the British thought the land was being ceded to them. I was glad for this training because it helped me provide an explanation when gallery guests asked me why I did a land acknowledgment before my tours. 

In my job with the education department at the University of Winnipeg, I visited many schools in the Winnipeg One School Division which began to do treaty acknowledgments each day in all their schools beginning in 2017. 

Land acknowledgment sign at the Morinville Community High School in St. Albert, Alberta

It was good to read recently that the Hanover School Division where I taught for decades has approved a treaty acknowledgment statement as well. Superintendent Shelley Amos says it is a way to show honor and respect for Indigenous people and their land and express the division’s desire to move forward in constructive ways in their relationship with Indigenous people. 

While school divisions like Winnipeg One have made treaty acknowledgments a requirement Hanover will leave it up to individual schools to decide on what occasions and in what situations the division’s official acknowledgment statement would have the most impact.  A plaque with the acknowledgment will be placed on all properties owned by the school division. 

We have been hearing land and treaty acknowledgments at sporting events, cultural events, business events, and religious events for many years now. It is good to know that both the Hanover School Division and the Manitoba Legislature are joining the effort to recognize the contributions of our Indigenous neighbors and to express our willingness to work towards reconciliation in our province. 

Other posts…….

Indigenous Canadians and Mennonite Canadians

Old Sun and Emily Carr

Who Are the Wendat?

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The Gift Was A Gift

The Gift/Tuniigusiia by Goota Ashoona

The Gift a new sculpture by Inuit artist Goota Ashoona, was a gift from the Manitoba Teachers Society to the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s new Inuit Art Centre called Qaumajuq.

The teachers of our province help impart the gift of knowledge to young people and Goota Ashoona illustrates that idea of sharing knowledge in her beautiful piece of art.

On this side of the sculpture, you can see a mother teaching her daughter to do Inuit throat singing. The mother’s face has traditional tattoos and I love the way she rests her head against her daughter’s as she passes on the knowledge of an important Inuit art form.

The woman looking skyward on the sculpture is Sedna or Nuliajuk

Storytelling is another way of passing on knowledge and that is illustrated on the other side of the sculpture which features Sedna or Nuliajuk. Sedna is the main character in a traditional Inuit story about a girl who drowns while fleeing an unhappy marriage. She becomes a mermaid who is responsible for the creation of all the animals of the northern seas.

Artist Goota Ashoona with her sculpture The Gift/Tuniigusiia

Artist Goota Ashoona says in this video that it was her grandmother who told her the story of Sedna or Nuliajuk. It’s a story that has many different versions and I shared it literally a hundred times or more with groups of visitors during the eight years I gave tours at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Just check out all the marvellous details Goota Ashoona has included in her sculpture made from Verde Guatemala marble. Can you see the mermaid’s tail to the left? Goota Ashoona shows Sedna or Nuliajuk’s fingers prominently because in the story those fingers get cut off and become all the northern marine animals. You can also see her long flowing hair. In some versions of the story of Sedna, shamans dive down into the sea to comb Sedna’s tangled hair when they want to make her happy and ask her for a favour.


I love the way the face of the older woman can be seen on this side of the sculpture as well. For me at least it alludes to the fact that Goota Ashoona heard the story of Sedna or Nuliajuk from her grandmother.

Inside the Winnipeg Art Gallery, you can see an entire gallery with dozens of artistic representations of the Sedna or Nuliajuk story including this gorgeous 2009 sculpture by Goota Ashoona.

I took this photo of The Story of Nuliajuk by Goota Ashoona on one of my last working days at the Winnipeg Art Gallery before it closed due to the pandemic.

The dedication for The Gift says it is for the teachers all around us in the land and in our lives who reveal the truth, wisdom, and beauty that connects us all.

Don’t you just love that? I could write another whole blog post just about that gem of a statement.

Why not take a close look at the sculpture yourself? You can find it on the corner of St. Mary Avenue and Memorial Boulevard.

Other posts……….

Sedna is a Planet

Inuit Art at the Zoo

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

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Bring Your Bear Bells

On Wednesday morning as we set off on a little mini-vacation to Buffalo Point we received this text from friends we planned to visit at their cottage later that afternoon. “Bring your bear bells.”

On our drive, we heard a news report about the unusual number of bear and human interactions this summer in Manitoba. One of the recommendations in the news report was to make noise as you walk so bears know you are coming. That helped us understand our friend’s joking suggestion we bring bear bells.

Our first stop was the beautiful Lake of the Sand Hills Golf Course where Dave and I played 18 holes in near-perfect conditions.

Since we had been hearing about bears I asked Dave to take a photo of me at the hole called Black Bear.

On another hole as we were waiting for our turn to tee off, the course marshall stopped to chat and said there were about thirty-five bears in the area and quite a number had been spotted on the course.

He said on one hole near the lake a mother bear and her cub had spent the better part of a day up a tree gathering acorns. He told us not to be worried, however. Bears prefer to stay away from people and generally aren’t dangerous.

We finished the round without spotting a single bear.

Later we had a lovely time at our friends’ cottage enjoying drinks on their deck, dinner, and visiting around a campfire but we saw nary a bear, although our friends told us they had certainly seen them during their time at the cottage. They showed us a photo of a mother and her cubs parading across their property.

The only wildlife we saw were the deer that routinely visited the yard and seemed to feel right at home there.

As it turned out we were fine even though we hadn’t brought our bear bells.

Other posts……..

A Saskatchewan Great Plains Grizzly Lands Up In Scotland

Golfing At An Old Hudsons Bay Outpost

Where I’m From- Moose Lake

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Down With Screen Time – Up With Family Time

I have a program on my computer that tells me how many hours I spend on it each week. My report this week said my screen time was down by close to 60%. That’s because for the first time in nearly twenty months our whole family was together. We had rented a beautiful place in Oak Lake Manitoba where we spent several days with our children and grandchildren. It was wonderful!

The beautiful Air B and B where we stayed.

I had written all my blog posts for the week ahead of time so instead of spending hours at the computer keyboard, I spent my days reading stories, playing games, going to playgrounds, visiting an ice cream stand, touring a farm, making smores, singing, sitting around a fire, eating watermelon and roll kuchen, watching sunsets, spotting shorebirds, going for nature walks, helping prepare and eat delicious family meals, visiting, watching my grandchildren…… play and draw and build and jump and swim and write stories and kayak. I reveled in every moment of being together with my whole family after COVID had kept us apart for so long.

I felt so much healthier and happier after my hiatus from screens. My time with my family and away from my computer was so good for my mental health and well-being. I need to remember that going forward.

Other posts………..

Mom Comes to Hong Kong

Pandemic Grandparenting

Kin Work

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Human Rights and February Holidays

In February we recognize two important holidays.  Both remind us we are making progress towards respecting diversity, but each should also remind us we need to continue to be vigilant about protecting human rights. 

Lion dancer I photographed during Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong

We are in the midst of the Chinese New Year celebrations which run from February 12 -26th.  Canada is home to more than one and half million people of Chinese descent. I learned to thoroughly enjoy Chinese New Year celebrations during the six years I lived in Hong Kong. Some of my colleagues at the international school where I taught were Chinese Canadians.  I was interested to learn that their families had been in Canada longer than mine.  

Sculpture illustrating the important contribution Chinese workers made to the construction of Canada’s railroad at the Winnipeg Millennium Library

My Mennonite ancestors immigrated in the 1920s but in the early 1880s 17,000 Chinese workers came to Canada to help build the railroad.  Many stayed here and prospered despite the virulent racism they faced. Their families continue to make valuable contributions to our country in politics, culture, business, science, education, technology and sport. 

Sadly, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail, in the last year more than 600 incidents of hate related crimes have been reported to Chinese Canadian organizations. Although some of these incidents are related to historical anti-Asian racism many are the result of the racialization of COVID-19. Vancouver police have reported a real spike in cases. They investigated seven racist incidents in 2019 and sixty-six in 2020. 

Dr. Theresa Tam- Canada’s Chief Medical Officer

Although it is easy to point fingers at the United States where their former president’s continual reference to COVID-19 as the Chinese virus has caused a massive increase in anti-Asian hate incidents, we have a similar problem in Canada. One need look no further for an example of such anti- Chinese sentiment than the comments of former Conservative Party member Derek Sloan. He accused Dr. Theresa Tam our country’s chief medical officer who is of Chinese descent, of being more loyal to China than to Canada. This kind of dishonest racist rhetoric has no place in a respectful society.  

I photographed Winnipeg’s Metis mayor Brian Bowman at the opening ceremonies for Folklorama in 2019

On Monday we celebrated Louis Riel day. Louis Riel was a staunch defender of the rights of Manitoba’s Metis people. The mayor of our capital city Brian Bowman is Metis as was a former provincial premier John Norquay. Think of hockey player Theoren Fluery, writer Katherena Vermette, artist Joe Fafard, actress Tantoo Cardinal and members of Parliament Dan Vandal and Shelley Glover and you will get some idea of just how many important contributions the nearly 90,000 Metis Manitobans have made to our province.  

Yet it doesn’t take long to find stories about Metis people being discriminated against in many different areas of society.  In September of 2020 a CTV news story reported that David Chartrand the president of the Manitoba Metis Federation had sent a letter to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission alleging systemic discrimination against the Metis people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Chartrand said the provincial government had been unwilling to work with the Metis nation in an information sharing process that would have benefited both the Metis and the Manitoba health care system.  

I photographed this sculpture titled Manitoba by Metis artist Joe Fafard at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

In 2018 almost the entire Manitoba Hydro Board, whose members had all been appointed by Premier Brian Pallister, resigned to protest the decision the premier made to not honor an agreement the board had negotiated with the Manitoba Metis Federation. Clearly there is still work to do in addressing discrimination against the Metis community. 

A pair of holidays we celebrate in February recognize the rich contributions of two diverse communities in our country. Those holidays should also remind us we need to continue to work at respecting the human rights of those communities.  

Other posts………

Making Chinese Dumplings

Manitoba is Metis

It’s Louis Riel Day

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Hecla Hike With A Bird Watcher

We spent a couple of days at Hecla Island last week and one of the hikes we did took us to a lighthouse on a spit of land sticking out into Lake Winnipeg.  There are actually two lighthouses in the same location. The original one closest to the water, which has been beautifully restored, was built in 1898. The larger more modern one was constructed in 1926.  At the time it featured a kerosene lamp, a giant hand-wound reflector, and a foghorn.  A lighthouse keeper was on duty till 1970 when the Canadian Coast Guard took over responsibility for it.  A lighthouse was necessary and important during the era when huge steamships regularly plied Lake Winnipeg carrying passengers, supplies, and cargos of timber and limestone. Dave collected some extra cargo as we hiked through the forest to the lighthouse.  Can you see the trimming of burrs along the hood of his jacket? We were hiking with our friends and we stopped frequently to listen for birds since Dave was eager to get some good photos. He captured a waxwing a Swainson’s thrush a Yellow-rumped warbler a female Mallard a Black-billed magpieCanada geese and a pelican. We passed some marshland and the following day hiked through a marshy area where we spotted deer, frogs, a snake and a fox  The scenery was gorgeous the weather was warm and sunny and our friends Bruno and Caroline were great company. 

We live in Manitoba so fall weather can be unpredictable and this year we know once it gets cold much of our in-person socializing will have to end since we have committed to doing pretty much all of our get-togethers outdoors during the pandemic. 

It was lovely to have this hike with friends on a beautiful day, something to savour during the isolation of the winter ahead. 

Other posts about hikes with friends…………

Hiking the Virgin

A Perfect Afternoon in Gambo

Up to Weaver’s Needle

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A Different Kind of Folk Festival

At the Folk Festival in 2011

If 2020 had been like other years Manitobans would have been attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival in Birds Hill Park this past weekend.  The event was cancelled due to the pandemic but the Folk Festival organized a virtual concert for July 11 and encouraged people to get together outside on their yards to watch it on Saturday night. We were fortunate enough to be invited to a country property near Lowe Farm for an alternate Folk Festival evening hosted by our friends Roger and Ruth. A screen and speakers had been set up on the yard for watching the performers and listening to the music. We parked our cars alongside the grain bins. Tie-dyed sheets billowing in the breeze and a painting of a quilt on the barn gave the farmyard a ‘folkie’ kind of feel.


Before the festivities sponsored by the Folk Festival hit the big screen Roger our host favoured us with four numbers he had written himself, accompanied by two members of his family.

Roger tells us about the songs he has written

One of Roger’s songs had been inspired by a trip on the Trans Siberian railroad, another by a trip to South America and one celebrated a barnstorming baseball team from the American Negro Baseball League that came to play a game in nearby Roland Manitoba when Roger’s father was a young man. Roger’s band also shared a piece about his father’s perspective on the world when he was over a hundred years old. The evening included a fabulous meal and………….. an opportunity to explore a labyrinth that had been cut into the field behind the house. You could pick up some stones, that represented your hopes or wishes to hold as you made your way down the paths. I was all alone in the labyrinth as I wound my way through the beautiful wild prairie grasses and flowers.  I basked in the beauty of the yellow fields in the distance, the sound of the wind in the grass, and the endless blue sky above me. 

labyrinth entryAfter the music was over some of the guests engaged in games of catch with ball gloves and balls supplied by Ruth and Roger’s neighbour.  We left as the sun was going down. 

It wasn’t the same as being at Bird’s Hill Park for the Folk Festival but it was a great alternative in a setting every bit as beautiful. Thanks, Roger and Ruth. 

Other posts…………..

Knuckleball- Think Mennonite Corner Gas

Inspiration at the Winnipeg Folk Festival

Winnipeg Folk Festival- It’s Who You Know

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