The word ‘Assiniboia’ is used a lot in Winnipeg. The people of the Assiniboia First Nation were the original bearers of the name. Since then we’ve named a river, a zoo, a municipality, numerous businesses, and a racetrack after them.
Fast Facts about Horse Racing for the total Know-Not-All:
I’ve never paid it much attention, but now that one of my kids has a part time job there, I’m suddenly curious. I’ve even attended my first horse race this past weekend and lost three whole dollars!
Usually, in the mornings when I drive past the track on my way to work, I’ll see horses prancing around in circles like they’re part of a merry-go-round. Sometimes there’s a smoky fire nearby, to keep the mosquitoes away. I’ve now learned that the carousel devices are called ‘hot walkers.’ Four to six horses can exercise at the same time for about half an hour.
The racetrack opened in 1958. Before that, races were held at Polo Park (which for all of my lifetime, has been the name of our biggest shopping mall).
The Assiniboia Downs racetrack is six and a half furlongs long. (To put this in perspective, the track for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is 10 furlongs). There are 8 furlongs in a mile.
Live thoroughbred racing happens only during the summer – on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. What is a thoroughbred, you ask? Somehow, they can all trace back their lineage back to three specific horses that were bred in England. Thoroughbreds come in a variety of colors, and sizes – measuring from 15 to 17 hands. (A hand = 4 inches.)
Other Horse facts:
Filly – female three years or younger
Mare – female over three years old
Entire – male stallion
Gelding – a male horse that’s been castrated
Non-horse person that I am, what I find most fascinating about the whole sport is naming of the horses. Here’s a sample of some recent Assiniboia Downs competitors: Ally Scatter, Gentle Rain, Black Iris, Awaytobelieve, Fine Feline, and Oh Holy Moley. These names must rival the names chosen by rock bands. It's not a good idea to place bets according to names, though. I lost my three bucks betting on Gentle Rain.
Perhaps this is a good place to stop. I haven’t touched on the jockeys, the actual racing, or the betting procedures. But I do want to recommend a young adult book I read awhile ago. It’s written by Annie Wedekind, called A Horse of Her Own. Great story about the horse/human relationship and some insight into the complicated horse world.
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Just read a book that I had to order from Germany - therefore the cost of delivery was more than the book itself. But the price was well worth it. Die Frauen von Janowka (The Women of Janowka) by Helmut Exner drew me in quickly and kept me turning pages until the end. While it's a 'roman' or novel, it's more of a family memoir and is filled with photographs, maps, and brief lifelines of the individuals, to help the reader along. I found myself constantly go back and forth, checking the photos and maps to review the who's and where's. I found this immensely helpful.
One of the main characters is the author's grandmother, Serafine, and her parts of the book were my favorite. The Russian part of the story happens before my own mother is born. It's about the exile of thousands of Germans to remote parts of Siberia during WWI.
This book is dear to my heart because it's also my family's story. Like the author, I too have family spread all over the world - family that shared beginnings in Volhynia. What really brought this story close to me was not just the beginning, but the ending - specifically, the last photograph in the book. It's of the Brokenhead River by Beausejour. Next weekend I plan to drive out there - it should be a less than two hour drive. The family that started off by a river in Volhynia (once in Russia, later in the USSR, now in Ukraine), now has some of that family farming in my own province.
One of the book's strengths was the humorous banter between the couples - led by the Exner men - and passed on through the generations. The author did a great job in giving life to his deceased family members. An excellent read, all around. (Also, considering my German isn't as strong as it used to be - the language flowed and was quite accessible.)
I’ve spent twenty summers going to the Winnipeg Folk Festival. This summer I’m not there – physically – but I can still feel its vibes, and I’d like to share some of those with you. Here are twenty facts about this most amazing musical, spiritual, and community experience.
1. The Winnipeg Folk Festival always happens on the second weekend of July. (The weekend starts on a Wednesday.)
2. The Winnipeg Folk Festival site is at Birds Hill Provincial Park – about half an hour northeast of Winnipeg.
3. The Festival began as a one time event back in 1974 by Mitch Podolak and Colin Gorrie. That’s 37 years ago!
4. In an effort to provide a quality experience, 2010 is the first time that attendance will be capped at 14, 000 per day. (No more waiting to see what the weather will be like.) It’s sold out this year.
5. Only 6000 campers are allowed. Sites are unserviced.
6. The Festival generally avoids the big names in music – but some star attractions have included Blue Rodeo, Elvis Costello, Bare Naked Ladies, Great Big Sea and Bruce Cockburn.
7. The ‘morning tarp run’ is a chaotic scene where thousands of people are let through the gate to place their tarp in front of the mainstage. Scary!
8. Small venue workshops start at 11:30 a.m. and offer an intimate setting for your favorite (and soon to be favorite) acts.
9. Handmade Village offers unique items from soaps to walking sticks to clothes, ear rings and bracelets.
10. Whale’s Tails are an annual must at the Food Village. So are the fantastic fruit shakes.
11. No glass, alcohol or other ‘stuff’ is allowed into the festival area.
12. 2200 volunteers make the festival work. It’s amazing how it’s all organized. I volunteered for a few years as ‘site security’. It was a super experience. And the food? Wow. The volunteers and the performers get exceptional food.
13. There are two campgrounds at the Festival site. ‘Festival’ and ‘quiet’. My family has only camped at the ‘quiet’ site. We learned quickly to choose a camping spot with some shade.
14. There’s poison ivy out there, so stay on the trails. (Our family learned this the hard way.)
15. Wristbands define your status as a camper, weekender, or daily visitor.
16. Family Area is for kids. Big sand dune, crafts, and kid-friendly music. Our family spent many hours over the years in this area.
17. Young Performers Stage is a way for budding artists to perform and be mentored by older, more experienced musicians.
18. The average age at the folk festival? Every age. From newborn to 93.
19. My favorite memory? Watching my three kids wiggle their little bums to the music.
20. Second favorite memory? Seeing a most awesome rainbow while being surrounded by swaying people as beautiful music pulses through the air. (After we'd all been soaked by the rain!)
Twenty summers with my kids. Good vibes!
Visit their website http://www.winnipegfolkfestival.ca/wp/about-us/
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Another place that I managed to get close to, back in 2019—but still didn’t get to visit—was the former Stablach , East Prussia. Once known ...