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Winnipeg’s Dutch community celebrates heritage with Hollandse Feestdagen

Venue located at Devries Rd

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – The Manitoba Dutch have scheduled a mid-September three-day weekend event, Hollandse Feestdagen, to showcase Dutch heritage and culture. The organizers working under the auspices of the Dutch Canadian Society of Manitoba (DCSM) promise the event to be a thrilling experience for the entire family.

A Big Tent on the grounds of The Royal Canadian Legion at 3600 Devries Road is the heartbeat for Hollandse Feestdagen and the stage for a range of “dynamic” entertainment. Dutch Canadian entertainer Anna Sekura is bound to delight audiences with her cabaret-style performances, assures lead organizer Leonard van Leeuwen who also is DCSM’s second-generation Dutch Canadian president. Sekura’s acts will be enhanced with a “creative blend” of skits, humour and song, along with performances by the perennially popular Klompendancers and Kleine Kleuters.

Additionally, the Hollandse Feestdagen promises a tie-in with the 400 Year Rembrandt celebrations of this year. Among the exhibits in the Big Tent will be Masters Corner, a unique multimedia display featuring the famed Dutch Master that will include a narration on some of the idiosyncratic characteristics of the famous artist. The envisioned market style atmosphere also will accommodate local artists, who will exhibit and offer for sale their work on Artist’s Row. A flower show dubbed Little Keukenhof – no tulips however – should add both colour and beauty in recognition of the bulbs and plant species that have given Holland worldwide acclaim.


Visitors can take in the smell and touch of things Dutch in various ways. Dutch food prepared on site promises both to whet and still appetites. Mementoes and souvenirs are for sale to satisfy the desire for identity symbols for keepsakes and gifts. The inclusion of a Veterans Corner signals recognition of an important aspect of modern Canadian and Dutch history. Canada as part of the Allied Forces has the distinction of being the only trans-Atlantic country to liberate (much of) the Netherlands. (The country had been liberated by foreigners previously in 1814, when Napoleon’s French troops were sent packing by the Cossacks on swift horses.)

The jewel of the DCSM is draaiorgel De Boomstam which guarantees the event’s musical authenticity. One of a small number, definitely no more than six for all of Canada, the barrel organ which made its way to Winnipeg via a collector in Philadelphia, will play its repertoire throughout the event.

Peddlers promoted Winnipeg

The launch of Hollandse Feestdagen this year is regarded as a bold step forward for the Dutch community in Manitoba. The event will replace DCSM’s traditional participation at Winnipeg’s Folklorama, a multi-community manifestation, and allows for “greater creativity and more flexibility with show times, content and duration.”

Organized Dutch immigration to Canada commenced in 1893, with a group of over 60 northern Dutch pioneers which settled in Winnipeg, then still a fast-developing frontier town in a province less than 25 years old. The previous year, Klaas and Reinder de Vries had arrived in Winnipeg and reported their findings in a long letter which in the 1990s was translated and published in English, Leaving Home Forever is available from Vanderheide along with companion titles 100 Years Ago and My 38 Years in America. One hundred years earlier, the letter also was published (by a new immigration society) and widely sold door-to-door by peddlers, raising interest in Canada and Winnipeg as a resettlement destination. By the late 1920s, Winnipeg was home to a significant Dutch community.

The event, appropriately at Devries Rd (3600), runs from September 15 through 17. Additional information can be obtained from Rita van Leeuwen at 204-997-4450 or