Island volunteers build another great long weekend

The August long weekend has long been the pinnacle of the Island summer season, especially with the bookend events of the Little Current Lions Club Haweater Weekend and the Wiikwemkoong Cultural Festival (aka the Wiikwemkoong powwow, the grandmother of all powwows in Eastern Canada) acting as homecoming events bringing families and friends together.

These events, and the host of other Island community summer homecoming celebrations, would not be possible without the efforts of a literal army of steadfast volunteers who offer up their priceless time to help make these events the building blocks of lifelong and cherished memories.

Marshalled by folks like Lion President Bruce Burnett and Wikwemikong Heritage Organization’s Sheena Wassegijig, these volunteers set up the infrastructure for community events, operate ticket booths, run thousands of errands, tackle crises beyond number with aplomb and decorum to ensure the best possible experience for everyone.

The Wiikwemkoong Cultural Festival, which most of us know affectionately as the Wiikwemkoong powwow—and the grandmother of Eastern Canadian powwows—welcome visitors from far beyond the shores of Turtle Island and draws dancers and singers from far and wide. But the cultural festival now encompasses much more than a traditional powwow, with a celebration of Anishinaabe culture and traditions that encompasses art, music, language and theatre to help nurture and strengthen that which had been far too long suppressed.

Haweater Weekend may be thought of as party time for the younger set, but being situated on the August long weekend it is a time when many families revel in the return of their children and grandchildren for a yearlong anticipated visit. For many years now the Little Current Lions Club has embraced this aspect of Haweater Weekend, adding to and strengthening the family component with events and draws aimed at creating what has become a truly family-oriented weekend.

Both these events, and the other Island homecomings and traditional powwows that take place throughout the summer, provide opportunities for friends and families to get together and reacquaint, sharing stories of what has transpired in the past year and their hopes and dreams for the future.

Volunteers contribute so much to the incredible quality of life we have come to enjoy in this nation we call Canada and especially this Manitoulin Island home we share. The next time you see someone wearing the distinctive purple and yellow vest of the Lions Club or the volunteer shirts of the Wiikwemkoong volunteers please take a moment to express your gratitude for their efforts.

These events take a tremendous amount of volunteer effort, but also come with an enormous price tag that is rarely, if ever, fully covered by government festival grants. Take a moment to make a donation, purchase some of the merchandise on offer by the vendors who pay a fee to be able to attend, or just kick in as large a donation as you can make to help defray the cost of fireworks, appearance fees, dancer and singer’ zhooniyaa and the myriad of other expenses associated with these events. Your support helps to make each year’s festivals the enjoyable successes they have become.