Prairie kitchen parties and the Manitoban spirit

The 2nd annual Winnipeg Crankie Festival is sure to be a madhouse of homegrown talent

Image provided by Leonard Podolak

Before winter fully settles over the city and forces us inside for the next four months, Crankie Festival organizer Leonard Podolak wants to bring Winnipeggers together for a final hurrah.

“We’re getting ready for winter, here’s something to kind of bring us together,” he said, describing the upcoming second annual Winnipeg Crankie Festival, a madhouse of homegrown art and music held in the Crescent Fort Rouge United Church.

The crankie — the festival’s namesake — is a versatile, traditional storytelling device that dates back centuries.

Illustrated panoramas on scrolls are moved by cranks to tell tales. Podolak said the crankie is the embodiment of what he’s trying to accomplish with the festival.

“I thought it could be a perfect theme for a community festival, because we could invite visual artists, musicians, poets, freaks — you know, Al Simmons,” he said.

“He was the first person I ever invited to the first Crankie Festival, actually.”

Simmons, a celebrated children’s entertainer and lynchpin of whackadoo Manitoban spirit, is one of nearly 60 performers who have agreed to participate. This level of enthusiasm Podolak believes is partly because this year’s festival is being held in honour of his father, the late Mitch Podolak.

Before his death in August , the senior Podolak was a visionary in Canada’s folk community, responsible for the creation of the Winnipeg Folk Festival among countless other festivals, venues and events across Canada.

Podolak said the torrent of support, both for the Crankie Festival and beyond, has demonstrated the depth of the impact his father had.

“The tributes were obviously lovely, but there were so many really cool stories and stuff that I learned about my dad, that I had no idea,” he said.

“He mentored hundreds, he created work for thousands and he created fun for millions.”

The idea of coming together and creating, something his father was adept at, is what drives the three-day festival, Podolak said.

Interactivity and a genuine love of music and art is essential to every aspect of the festival, from the instrument and crankie workshops — where you can learn to build and use your very own crankie — to the Prairie Kitchen Party, a flatland reimagining of the longstanding maritime jamming tradition.

“We’re trying to get back to the place where we all started playing music in the first place, which was socially, for sure,” Podolak said.

“Bring your guitar, bring your fiddle, bring your mandolin, whatever.”

The goal, Podolak said, is to bring people together and create something new.

“This festival is a barn-raising, literally. It’s kind of like my old man.”


The 2nd annual Winnipeg Crankie Festival runs from Nov. 8-10. For more information visit