In the midst of planning the 131st Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, one of the largest Festivals in the province, that brings tens of thousands of people together from across North America and beyond to Gimli, Manitoba, we are suddenly encouraged to stay as far away from each other as possible (minimum 2 m), to curb the dangerous outbreak of COVID-19.
Among countless other concerns, worries and anxious thoughts, I wonder, what does this mean for Festival?
“This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had to persevere. It’s in our nature,” said Marilyn Valgardson, Islendingadagurinn Vice-President, when I called her to discuss what we should do.
And she’s right, Icelandic people have had their fair share of hardships. From volcanic eruptions, to small pox outbreaks and economic collapses, to name a few. Eventually, we’ve come out on the other side of it. “Þetta reddast,” is Iceland’s unofficial motto after all, “it will all work out alright.”
Marilyn reminded me that when our ancestors first made the long, arduous journey to Canada, that in the very limited space they had, they chose to bring books as one of their most important possessions. In Icelandic society arts and culture hold the same weight and importance as science, history and language. Great pride and care is taken to preserve arts, culture and heritage, and to celebrate it. It was from that value system that the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba was born.
At the time of writing, according to ourworldindata.org, Iceland has tested more people per capita, than anywhere in the world, and as per the Reykjavik Grapevine, they are now seeing the smallest rises in newly diagnosed infections across Europe.
Like the Festival itself, the ability to endure and persevere is by no means limited to those that are Icelandic. Let the small and mighty Icelandic way inspire you, that as an individual you can make a difference to help to keep our communities safe, so that one day we may gather again and celebrate.
It’s too soon to tell you how Islendingadagurinn will be affected, but what I can tell you, is that at this time we are continuing to plan the Festival, while closely following updates and recommendations from the Province of Manitoba and Provincial Health Authority.
And I can also tell you, that this August long weekend, we will continue to celebrate Icelandic culture and heritage, it just might not look the same way as it has in the past.
During this difficult time, please remember that while there are many things that can be taken away us, there are many things that can’t; our past, future, heritage, culture, or our hope.