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Museum decks its halls

Jennifer Pawluk

For the last five years, the New Iceland Heritage Museum has organized some sort of holiday festival in Gimli. The first year, the festivities were centred around a gingerbread replica town of Gimli. This year, the theme is "Trees, Wreaths & Gingerbread" and this community continues to show its generous spirit and creative tendencies.

Take a walk through the Lady of the Lake Theatre sometime before next Saturday and you will find yourself humming along to Christmas carols as Christmas lights twinkle around you.

On the walls of the theatre hang more than a dozen wreaths decorated and donated by local businesses, organizations and community members. Gingerbread creations and Christmas trees are situated throughout the room too. The display opened late last month.

All festival items will be raffled off on Dec. 10 in support of exhibits, events and programs at the museum.

"It's really, really fun," said Tammy Axelsson, the executive director of the New Iceland Heritage Museum. "People are so willing to participate, and so creative."

Some of the more whimsical creations include a wreath from Amma's Tearoom & Gift Shop that is decorated with ribbons, lights and teacups, and one from Reykjavik Bakery laced with baked goods.

A wreath from Gimli High School features a few ornaments created by students. The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba wreath is adorned with an Icelandic flag and blue, red and white lights, naturally.

Over a period of three weekends, the museum organizes many seasonal activities to coincide with its holiday festival, such as craft and bake sales and photos with Santa inside the authentic log cabin exhibit.

Some highlights for this Saturday, Dec. 3 include making Laufabrau├░, the story of the Icelandic Yule Lads as told by Thora McInnis, and the opening reception for Crafting the Mosaic: Celebrating 75 Years of Craft in Manitoba, an exhibit which runs until Dec. 28 at the museum. The Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library donated 75 crafting artefacts for the exhibit.

"It just seemed like a really good time of year to celebrate crafting," said Axelsson. "To really focus in on things like the wreaths or the homemade touches we do that are so much a part of our lives and our history."

"So it just seemed really appropriate, when we were having a craft sale and a bake sale, and doing all kinds of stuff," observed Axelsson, "to have that exhibit here at the same time."

Museum admission is free until the end of the month.

Hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as well as Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

From September until May, volunteers staff the museum on weekends.

"It's an amazing accomplishment to be able to (stay open seven days a week year-round) because of the generosity of the community," Axelsson said.

"I appreciate the ongoing support and generosity of all of the participants who decorated the trees so beautifully and the wreaths for us," she added.

"It's that kind of community support, I think, that really is what Gimli is all about," stressed Axelsson. "And Gimli is very proud of that."

Axelsson hopes for a strong turnout next Saturday as the "Trees, Wreaths & Gingerbread" raffle takes place at 3 p.m. with a Fair Trade Holiday Fair starting at 1 p.m.

Goods for sale include jewellery, toys, household items, tea, coffee and much more. A featured item is gummy bears from the U.K.

Furthermore, Gimli High School students have partnered with the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation to host an Ethical Fashion Show at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 10.

For more information about "Trees, Wreaths & Gingerbread" and related events, visit the museum's website at or phone 642-4001.

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