Elbow's Small Town Charm Big Part of Culture Days
Music and dance, part of Elbow’s small-town charm, are at the heart of what makes cultural celebrations a special and amazing experience for the community. Elbow is a very small village in the province of Saskatchewan, with a population of under 350 people, that has been holding cultural celebrations and activities since 2013, before formally registering a Culture Days event in 2016.
Anne Wilson, Culture Days Event Organizer, says, “In the olden days, there used to be regular dances here. The first time we had an event during the Culture Days’ time-frame, our goal was to resurrect the dancing. We brought in a gospel group—a crowd-pleaser in our area. Then we cleared the chairs out of the way, and the group became a ‘dance band’…and not one person left without looking forward to the next time!”
Elbow is a very musical and artistic community with several art galleries. It was important to bring people from diverse backgrounds together to promote pride, heritage, and culture. She adds that funding was available for these events through SaskCulture’s Museum Grant Program. “We applied for funding for our museum (Elbow & District Museum) and it was through that program that Shelley Fayant, Communications Consultant and SaskCulture’s Culture Days Coordinator, became aware of our event.
She encouraged us, and helped us register for Culture Days 2016—which was great because the advertising provided was awesome!”
The celebrations were always super colourful and successful, also brining people from other communities. She recalls one year when the theme was ‘Take a Trip to Different Lands’. “What we did was set it up like an airport, as if you were travelling to experience different cultures. There were even ‘duty free shops’ where local artisans could show their wares. Every square inch of our little Civic Centre was used,” says Wilson. “People were so interested, interacting with each other. It was amazing! People came out to share their different cultural backgrounds. The next year we had to add another venue! The event grew!”
This year, the organizers are hoping to start earlier on the Friday in order that school age children can participate in the activities. “Most kids have not been able to participate in the weekend events because of their extracurricular activites,” she says. “Also, another change, rather than having the artists bring their art to one big venue, this year we want to schedule visits to other venues—their galleries—so that people will go there to interact and meet more artists and artisans.”
Culture celebrations have become a huge part of the community, continuing throughout the year, not just in September. “Participating in Culture Days has been so good for the community—working together and being proud of our accomplishments,” she says. “Community needs unity. We need togetherness. We need to be welcoming. We might be a sleepy little town, but we need to celebrate the culture that we have—and we do!”
This article was originally published in the Winter/Spring 2019 issue of Engage Magazine.