Pan-Am Games put the spotlight on unique Manitoba

The Pan-Am Games are bringing Winnipeg and Manitoba some well-deserved media attention this week. The Games themselves are billed as the third largest sporting event ever held in North America (after the Montreal and L.A. Olympics) and are drawing tens of thousands of tourist from across Canada, the U.S. and Latin America to the Keystone Province.

Visitors are finding that Manitoba has a lot more to offer than athletic contests. The Forks area of downtown Winnipeg , located at the historic junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, is home to more than 50 businesses and offers an great mix of fresh, ethnic and speciality foods, gift shops, crafts stores and restaurants.

Just across the river from downtown Winnipeg (and The Forks) is historic St. Boniface, Canada’s largest francophone community outside of Quebec. The city’s French heritage is on display on everything from street signs to restaurants, and is celebrated during the community’s annual Festival du Voyageur every February.

Outside Winnipeg, Manitoba communities hosting Pan Am sporting venues also boast a wide variety of annual festivals, events, and summer fun. Gimli, the Pan Am site for sailing, is theargest Icelandic settlement outside of its homeland, and hosts an annual Icelandic Festival. The resort town is also providing lodging to athletes, coaches and support staff at its Misty Lake Athletes Village. Located on Lake Winnipeg just 60 miles north of Winnipeg, Gimli offers the visitor recreational waters, docks, a huge harbour and beautiful beaches.

Construction is underway on the New Iceland Heritage Museum and Icelandic Cultural Centre at the Betel Waterfront Centre in Gimli. Exhibit and research exchanges with museums in Iceland are planned for a state-of-the-art environmentally controlled facility. Manitoba has the largest Icelandic settlement in Canada, and an Icelandic Consulate was opened in Winnipeg recently.