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Ukrainian culture showcased to tourists

It’s a rare Prairie cathedral, an outstanding example of early Christian Church architecture, and something visitors to Dauphin seldom saw, save from the outside.

The Church of the Resurrection has been a local landmark since its construction in the 1930s, but until recently, few had a chance to learn about it or the people who built it.

Now arrangements can be made to view its sumptuous interior and be told the story of how it was built. Visitors can also learn how to bake Easter bread, try a few Ukrainian dance steps with Zirka dance instructors, and tuck into the delicious and hearty fare cooked by the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League here.

This new up-close-and-personal experience of Dauphin history and culture is part of a new tourist initiative. It all started a few years ago after hearing a common lament among visitors, says Carissa Caruk-Ganczar, Dauphin’s economic development manager. Visitors said they would like an opportunity to eat Ukrainian food and learn about the region’s heritage, she said.

“They were saying, ‘We’re coming to a Ukrainian community. We want to have a Ukrainian experience,’” said Caruk-Ganczar.

A workshop with Travel Manitoba sparked discussion among local residents on how to put together customized ‘experience packages’ for visitors. Today they’re all listed online through Dauphin Tourism (www.dauphintourism).

A ‘Savour the Flavour’ experience — combining a traditional Ukrainian dinner and dance instruction, bread making and a tour of the church — is now hugely popular. Other experiences offer a chance to visit nearby Trembowla, a Parkland historical site, and learn to make borscht, bake bread in a clay oven and even how to build the oven itself. Other experiences offer instruction in the ancient craft of roof thatching, or visits to working honey farms to learn beekeeping and beeswax candle making.

Attendees at last weekend’s Direct Farm Marketing Conference participated in the Savour the Flavour experience to find out how to develop these types of tourism packages.

Gimli is also doing something along the same lines, bringing in a local quilter to do workshops at the New Icelandic Heritage Museum, said Laurenda Madill, industry relations manager with Travel Manitoba.

“She takes people through the history of quilting and people actually get to do a patch of quilt with her,” said Madill.

“They’re using the museum there as a stage, and brought someone unique and authentic from the community to provide the experience.”

More than ever, tourists want to learn about the places they visit, said Karen Walker Tibble, a business development specialist with Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives.

“What may be ordinary to you may be certainly extraordinary to others,” she said.  

It’s also a way to bring in extra tourist dollars.

“It’s about creating new revenue streams and not free services,” said Walker Tibble.

In Dauphin, the groups providing the events worked out the prices that reflect the time put in by volunteers.

The initiative also draws tourists outside the peak summer months, and there has been consistent demand for the events year round, said Melisa Stefaniw, special events co-ordinator with Tourism Dauphin.

It’s something any community can do if the will is there, she said.

“Start to look at your community through a visitors’ eyes and what are those things about it that are special,” she said.

In Dauphin, they went through a number of workshops looking at what unique experiences they could offer and what their volunteers could handle, she said.

“Eventually it led us to developing this series of different experiences.”

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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