What are you thankful for? The answer to that question can be found on the front of every hand-turkey posted on an elementary classroom wall leading up to Thanksgiving weekend. It’s a big question, and while the kids are forced to find an answer, us as adults tend to get distracted with the turkey, and the hosting, and the travelling to see our loved ones, that we don’t quite get around to it.

So I was thinking, as October snow falls from the sky and the lustre of the summertime fades away, how about we sit down, take our seats in front of the chalkboard, and try a little exercise to get into the Thanksgiving spirit. And look, I know it’s fun to be self deprecating sometimes - it’s part of our charm. But there’s beauty and culture and things to celebrate all around us in Manitoba, and if you ask me, I think a little positivity can go a long way. So get out your pencils, and pick out your favourite piece of coloured construction paper, because we’re making some hand turkeys!…oh, and we’re also going through 10 things we’re thankful for in Manitoba.

We’re thankful for four seasons

If you travel outside of Canada and tell someone you’re from Manitoba, it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is you’ll almost always be asked “Manitoba!? How cold is it there right now?”

Does it get cold in the winter? Yes. Of course it does. But there’s so much more than that. If you like sunny beaches and bathing suits, our 25-30 degree summer temperatures are perfect. If you’re looking for beautiful fall foliage, take a late September walk around The Forks, or Assiniboine Park, or head to the Whiteshell, or Riding Mountain National Park, or up north to Pisew Falls, or any of our Provincial Parks and tell me you’re not going to throw a picture up on Instagram with a #sweaterweather. And you can’t tell me you’re not standing in line at BDI the second the snow melts in April for #sweaterweatherthesequal.

And yes, we have winter. But also, “YES! We have winter!”

The thrill of skating down 8.6 kilometres of frozen river alongside hundreds of other Manitobans who are embracing and celebrating the season is literally exotic. Cross-country skiing on a lake: exotic. Dogsledding through the prairies: exotic. Ripping through the trees on your snowmobile, finding your way through the largest snow maze in the world, eating the best food you’ve ever tasted in a pop-up restaurant on a river, watching the northern lights light up and dance in the sky, these are all exotic and incredible experiences that are only possible with a winter long enough to make it happen. And sometimes it’s hard, but sometimes it’s also very cool, and it’s certainly something to be thankful for.

We’re thankful for sunshine (and sunsets)

Did you know that Winnipeg is the 2nd sunniest major city in Canada? With 2353 hours of bright sunshine a year, 316 sunny days, and 51% sunny daylight hours in the city (and comparable numbers across most of the province) it should be easy for Manitobans to look on the bright side. This lends itself well for our beautiful summers, and takes the bite off a bit in the winter - but my favourite perk about our sunshine is the sunsets. 

People can crack jokes about the flat landscape of the prairies, but ask them again while they’re gazing into the golden glow coming off the horizon on the drive home from the cottage. Or as the sky turns fiery red behind hundreds of geese migrating in the fall. Or as its reflection bounces off the water on the beach just as you thought ice cream was the only perfect way to end the evening. Our sunsets are long, and they’re vast, and they can go toe-for-toe with any sunset across the world. 

We’re thankful for polar bears

Manitoba has a lot of cool things going for it, but polar bears might just take the cake. Churchill is the Polar Bear Capital of the World, and one of the best places in the world to see polar bears in their natural environment. Whether they’re up close as they wait for the ice to freeze on the Hudson Bay in the fall, or at a distance on land behind the beluga whales in the summer, you don’t have to leave Manitoba to see a polar bear in person. People come from all over the world to get this experience, and although Churchill is remote, it’s still in our backyard, and we’re so thankful that it is. 

We’re thankful for the train

As thankful as we are for Churchill and the bears, we’re also thankful that we can once again get there travelling by land. At this time last year, the train tracks were down and the town of Churchill was without what many of the locals call their “lifeline.”

Thankfully, after 560 days without service, the tracks were repaired and the train is back - and we're very thankful. We’re thankful not only to be able to send people up on the train to Churchill to experience the magical town for themselves, but also that supplies and services are more readily available and accessible for the folks who call Churchill home. 

We’re thankful for road trips

There is so much to get out and discover in Manitoba, and we’re thankful that you can hop in a car and go from the prairies to Canadian shield, or big city to beautiful beach. Whether you’re going for a day-trip, or making the trek up north to some of the most beautiful water you’ve ever seen, you have options. All it takes is to explore just one new place every year in Manitoba, and I think the way you view and appreciate the province would never be the same again. 

We’re thankful for wild life

Growing up, my family and I always went up to Riding Mountain National Park for a week every summer. I can go on and on about what I love about that place, but one of the memories that always sticks out is a game we’d play on the drive, where we’d count how many animals we saw along the way. While my numbers may be skewed in an attempt to beat my sister, it felt like every time we went out there we saw more wildlife than I could count in my tiny little hands. 

I am so thankful for the wild life that we have in Manitoba. Whether they’re moose, or deer, or fish, or foxes, or maybe birds, or bears, or belugas, or bison, we share this land with so many living things, and it gets me every time. For example, I saw my first polar bear this year: cried. I felt the splash of a beluga and heard the playful songs they sing: cried. I woke up and saw my dog this morning: cried. Anyone else get the Thanksgiving weeps? Just me? Moving on. 

We’re thankful for professional sports

 …The Jets came back to Winnipeg: cried. The Goldeyes won a championship: cried….

 Ahem…sorry, I mean…SPORTS!

Manitobans love sports, and we’re very thankful that we have not one, not two, but four professional sports teams to watch in our own province. Hockey fans can enjoy some of the best action on the planet with the Winnipeg Jets, football fans can cheer with one of the wildest fan bases in the country when the Blue Bombers are in town, baseball fans have been with the Winnipeg Goldeyes to celebrate two championships in the last four years, and footy fans finally get to be in on the action with Valour FC making its Manitoba debut earlier this year. Go Jets Go, Let’s Go Bombers, Root root root for the Gold-eyes, and VFC! (clap clap clap) VFC! (clap clap clap).

We’re thankful for creative Manitobans

There are so many creative people in Manitoba, which you can see by the countless interesting and innovative events that pop up around the province every year. In the past month alone we’ve had Nuit Blanche, Culture Days, Wall-to-Wall Mural Festival, Fall Fest at Pine Ridge Hollow, and Harvest Moon Festival, with many others popping up throughout the year. To have an arts and culture scene which supports and empowers local artists, and inspires our citizens to go out and enjoy and interact with that art is something special, and it's something we’re very thankful for. 

We’re thankful for cabin country

Ask someone in the summer what they’re up to this weekend, and you’ll often hear the response, “I’m going to the lake.”

Whether it’s your lake, or your friends lake, or your family’s lake, or just a lake you like to go camping at, everyone’s got a lake, because Manitoba’s got lakes! In every region of our province, there’s a lake you can dip your feet in, or get a tan at, or water ski on - and this is something to be thankful for. Not everywhere has such an accessibility to cabin country, and we’re so lucky that not only are our lakes accessible, but they’re stunning and diverse and world-class as well. 

We’re thankful for Manitobans

The only thing we’re more thankful for than the province we live in, is the people we live in it with. Manitobans are creative, they’re resilient, they’re ambitious and adventurous, they’re kind and hospitable, funny and deprecating. They’re the kind of people who will show you a great time, and they’ll also help push your car out if you’re stuck in a snow drift. We love Manitoba for many reasons. But most of all, we love Manitoba because we love Manitobans. 

And that’s what we wrote on our hand turkey. What did you write on yours?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!