After a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival (CNUF) made a triumphant return over the weekend with three fun-filled days full of Ukrainian culture and heritage.
CNUF president Kayla Gillis felt this year’s festival was fantastic, thanks in part to more people attending than expected.
“I would say that we had about 7,500 through the gates, which was phenomenal,” she said.
Gillis feels the festival’s success year-after-year can be attributed to the patrons who keep coming back.
“Bringing in that high caliber entertainment. Bringing in local entertainment, as well. But I really have to say it’s our patrons and our sponsors that really keep the festival going. So I hope they continue,” she said.
Gillis was at a loss to explain what made this year such a success, suggesting the lack of a live event the last two years had people eager to celebrate its return.
“I think it was just getting together and just having that enjoyment. Coming together as a community, coming together as a festival family again,” she said. “I know with recent events that happened in Ukraine, too, I know a lot of people have been coming just to show their support to our culture.”
Some of the Ukrainian families who relocated to the Parkland because of the war in Ukraine were in attendance and even stepped up to volunteer at the gates and in Baba’s Kitchen.
“It was really nice to see,” Gillis said.
Saturday’s Zabava was cut short because of rain, but it did little to dampen the enthusiasm of everyone in attendance. Gillis was appreciative of the support of the many people who volunteered during the festival. Of the 210 people who volunteered at the festival, Gillis noted an organization came from Brandon, as well as some from Saskatchewan.
“A lot of the service groups in town helped us out. So it was really nice to see that everybody came to help and support us,” she said.
But the plan for next year is to being in something new every year.
“Which brings in new attractions, which brings in new people that haven’t been here before,” Gillis said.
The war in Ukraine was on the mind of everyone in attendance, with one dance group performing a military style dance.
“That was a very special moment. There wasn’t a lot of dry eyes in the stands for that dance. But I think everybody is thinking about it and you could tell, everybody wants to make sure that everybody is happy and supporting (Ukraine),” Gillis said, adding there were a couple of groups were collecting funds, as well.
Planning is already underway for next year, Gillis thanking everyone who attended this year’s festival.
“Thanks to our supporters, contributors, everybody. It’s been phenomenal. It’s a little overwhelming, a little emotional. It’s been fantastic.”