Islendingadagurinn brings local flavour

With over 120 years of tradition in Manitoba, the Gimli-based Icelandic Festival known to some as Islendingadagurinn is primed for quite a celebration this year.

The events run from Friday, July 29 to August 1, with each day offering a variety of live music, Viking re-enactments, rides, competitions and even a three-day running pancake breakfast.

While of course there is no shortage of ways to spend your time at the Icelandic Festival, one of the main draws ever year is the selection of concerts. Last year festival goers were treated to the likes of the Wilderness of Manitoba and headliner Ohbijou, both acts based out of Toronto. This year, however, the folks organizing the Gimli festival decided to keep things, for the most part, inclusive to the boundaries of our province. All but one of the musical acts performing at the 2011 Islendingadagurinn — Saskatchewan’s Zachary Lucky — will be home-grown Manitoban talent.

“It just so happened that this year everyone that we wanted was from around here and available, and because of that we were able to build something that I think will be truly entertaining,” said Robbie Rousseau, member of the board and booker for the festival.

Friday night sees Attica Riots, Goldenboy and the Noble Thiefs open the weekend’s live music in an event labelled Islendingarock. The next day festival-goers can enjoy the Saturday Night @ the Pier event, which boasts acts Royal Canoe, the Liptonians, Yoyote and This Hisses. Finally, Sunday night brings the evening concert series to a close with a bang in the Alternative Folk Festival, featuring Zachary Lucky, Ingrid Gatin, Romi Mayes, Andrew Neville and the Poor Choices, and Nathan.

“I think it’s vital for an important festival like this to acknowledge talent and help spread it,” Rousseau continued. “The festival brings about 40,000 to 50,000 people to Gimli over the weekend, so any time a Manitoba festival can do its best to support a Manitoba act, that’s great.”

Apart from the musical showcase, this year’s Islendingadagurinn also hosts a beach volleyball tournament, a fine art show, a poetry reading, a parade, and like many a great Manitoban festivals, a whole slew of craft vendors. Saturday night also features a screening of the documentary film Where is the Snow? introduced by musicologist Donald Gíslason. The film follows the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival and will be accompanied by a Q & A with director Bowen Staines.

As for University of Manitoba students in particular, Rousseau pointed to many attractions that might draw a good number of undergrads out this summer.

Students who work primarily out of Frank Kennedy or Max Bell may be interested in the ten-mile — officially sanctioned — road race on Sunday, or the one-mile run on Monday. Students from either history or Icelandic departments may want to come down to learn a great deal about Icelandic culture and meet a whole bunch of people from Iceland.

“Of course,” Rousseau added, “ if you’re just at the lake with your friends and just want to come play some Fris-Nok, see the bands and build some sand castles, that’s there for you too.”