A tweeting polar bear and 1,947 pounds of poutine were among the concepts fuelling imaginations during the “BOLD ideas” segment of the June 19 Manitoba Tourism Rally.

Speaker after speaker stepped up to the open microphone during the fast-paced session, sharing a total of 20 creative ideas that can help the industry grow, today and in the future. Each speaker was given 60 seconds to present their BOLD vision while a secret panel of judges chose the most noteworthy idea of the session.

The prize ultimately went to Lynne Skromeda, Executive Director of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, who pitched the idea of establishing Winnipeg as the folk music capital of North America. Lynn reasoned that while Chicago, New Orleans and Nashville have claimed ownership of blues, jazz and country music, no city is yet regarded as the home of folk – and the title is Winnipeg’s for the taking.

“There are so many opportunities to keep building on the success of the Folk Festival,” mused Lynne, whose organization is constantly exploring partnerships with schools, venues and other organizations. “Maybe we could even work with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to do something related to protest music.”

The crowd brought forward a multitude of “blue-sky” ideas to keep the momentum going in Manitoba’s tourism industry, including:

  • Elevating Polar Bear Week (the first week of November) to an event on the scale of the Discovery Channel’s wildly successful Shark Week.
  • Expanding Aboriginal Music Week by bringing in artists from not only Turtle Island, but all over the world.
  • Creating a Twitter account for Hudson, the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s most celebrated polar bear.
  • Building Manitoba’s reputation as a guardian of peace, compassion and human rights
  • Creating the world’s largest play structure.
  • Making Manitoba the home of Canada’s longest zip line.
  • Locating an outfitter for rafting and other outdoor sports at The Forks.
  • Establishing a start-up incubator to accelerate the conversion of ideas into real tourism products.
  • Continuing to build Manitoba’s self-image through promotion of a world-class, pride-worthy brand.

Participants also shared many wide-ranging examples of BOLD ideas that are making the industry stronger right now:

  • Brandon First is working on a long-term strategy to put the city back on the map as a major host city for curling. The ultimate aim is to once again host a national brier.
  • Brandon also rallied the community to create the world’s largest poutine as part of the city’s Canada Day celebrations. The effort was led by a Brandon restaurant with contributions from area French fry manufacturers and businesses, including the metal worker who made the 18-foot-long vessel from which the poutine was served. The community used social media, including a video tweeted to U.S. TV host Jimmy Kimmel, to get extra mileage from the stunt.
  • Thompson is building a reputation as the Wolf Capital of Canada by promoting awareness of its Spirit Way wolf statues, zoo exhibits and 5,330 square-foot wolf mural. Working with wildlife researchers, the city is starting an interactive Wolves without Borders program involving Grade 5 students from as far away as Mexico.
  • The Musée Saint-Joseph and tourism centre is a shining example of what a small community of just 200 residents can do to attract visitors. In addition to the 18-building replica of a pioneer village, the community has established a new fully serviced seasonal campground.
  • Hockey Manitoba is organizing 100 outdoor hockey games that will take place all over the province on February 15, 2015. The games will be part of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of hockey in this province.
  • Second Nature Adventures in Discovery in Riverton is sharing the wonders of winter by introducing a winter fishing package. The two-day package will be offered in February 2015.
  • The cabin-style convenience of Parks Canada’s oTENTik program is broadening the appeal of camping in Riding Mountain National Park. To promote interest, Parks Canada has begun taking an oTENTik to events such as the Dauphin Countryfest.
  • National Aboriginal Day is an example of how Parks Canada is using events to draw visitors into Riding Mountain National Park. The entertainment-packed program in Wasagaming has turned one of the slowest weekends of the year into one of the busiest.
  • Manitoba Music has introduced Manitoba Live, a free iOS app featuring the most up-to-date concert and festival listings for the province’s vibrant music scene. Once downloaded, it allows music fans to carry in their pockets the extensive database of listings that Manitoba Music has built over the past decade.
  • Air transport agreements are making it easier to come to our province, and our new air terminal has provided a “big enough pipe” to handle the volume. For example, the number of flights between the Philippines and Winnipeg has in recent years.

The session’s energy was spurred on by moderator Chuck Davidson, who has spent much of the last four years inciting the local business community to become part of the Manitoba BOLD movement. Manitoba BOLD began in 2010, when Chuck was VP of Policy for the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. Now, as President and CEO of the Manitoba Chamber, he is spreading the word province-wide.