Вітаємо to Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival, a three-day celebration of all things Ukrainian that takes place every August long weekend at the Selo Ukraina site on the slopes of Riding Mountain National Park. People from across Canada make their way to Dauphin to embrace their heritage by eating, drinking, dancing and celebrating.
Want to get in on the festivities even though you can’t tell the difference between a kolach and a kielbasa? Don’t worry! Here are some tips to help you celebrate Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival like a true Ukrainian. Будьмо!
Like my baba would say, “Смачного, Смачного!” (“Eat, eat!”) At Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival, there are plenty of delicious dishes to choose from.
Feast on favourites like perogies, holubchi (cabbage rolls), kielbasa (sausage), borscht (beet soup), and beetniks (beet leaf rolls filled with dough in cream sauce). If you can’t decide, go for a Ukrainian Platter heaped with all of the above and more!
Eating together is just as important. Share the love by splitting a loaf of fresh-baked bread from an outdoor stone oven, or join in a feast cooked over the fire at the Cossack camp. For those eighteen and over you can also enjoy a libation with friends at one of the festival’s liquor vendors.
Honour your history
The unofficial uniform of Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival is the vyshyvanka, a traditional embroidered blouse that has been worn by people of all ages and genders for hundreds of years. You are welcomed to share in the tradition by purchasing one for yourself from one of the many on-site vendors.
Keep your eyes open for a variety of modern designs and styles on dancers and festival-goers, or try on more formal costumes from various regions of Ukraine.
You can also take a step back in time at Selo Ukraina’s Ukrainian Heritage Village, a living museum showcasing prairie pioneer life in the early 1900s. Join costumed interpreters as you tour old shops, houses, and farmsteads...and even feed a goat!
Make something useful
For those of us who grew up pinching perogies, we know that good things come to those who work. Learn to pinch your own perogies at Baba’s Kitchen or braid bread at one of the festival’s workshops.
When you’re full, make a beaded necklace or vinok (flower crown) to wear around the festival. If you’ve got the patience, try traditional wheat braiding or pysanky (Ukrainian Easter egg) decorating. Both take some time and skill, but the finished products are beautiful!
You can also get your hands dirty making stone-ground wheat or restoring a heritage building the old-fashioned way—with a mud and straw mixture applied by hand.
Dance (and sing)
Dance is an central part of Ukrainian culture. The Canadian National Ukrainian Festival hosts hundreds of dancers who travel from across the country to perform over the course of the festival. Along with singers and bands, they make up the Grandstand shows held Saturday and Sunday afternoons and every evening.
Many Ukrainian dances blend footwork and theatre, telling the stories of disapproving "babas" and mysteriously vanishing perogies. With 12,000 seats to choose from in the Selo Ukraina amphitheatre, grab one near the stage to enjoy the dancers' animated expressions.
Dauphin is also home to Canada’s National Riding and Dancing Cossacks and Company, a troupe of riders and dancers who are a definite crowd favourite. They are a highlight of every Grandstand schedule, with kids flocking to the edge of the amphitheatre to watch the horses charge in.
But if there is one true “can’t miss” at the festival, it’s the Hopak. This high-energy performance showcases incredible feats of acrobatics and complex dance sequences to close out the show every night and is guaranteed to leave you on your feet. Cheering is encouraged!
When you’re inspired to dance yourself, head to the zabava—a lively dance party held every night until the wee hours of the morning.
The best way to celebrate like a true Ukrainian is to have a great time. From parties and parades to food and fireworks, Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival is meant to be fun for everyone. Go out and experience it yourself!
Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival is held at Selo Ukraina near Dauphin, Manitoba every August long weekend. Visit their website for tickets and more information.