Celebrating its 40th year in 2009, Folklorama is the largest and longest running multi-cultural festival in the world. The festival provides impetus for communities to stay together by giving purpose to connect. Communities look to Folklorama and its unique pavilion concept as a means to showcase aspects of their culture to tourists from all over the world. Through its unique revenue sharing model, Folklorama provides the revenues required to sustain community functions both during the festival and throughout the year.
It all began with an idea in 1970 when Winnipeg Mayor Stephen Juba approached the city's various ethnic communities to celebrate culture. An organization was formed in 1975 - now known as Folklorama - which is the only festival in the world co-produced with community organizations.
Folklorama has been recognized repeatedly with countless awards including Internationally Known Super Event, awarded by the American Bus Association for fourteen years running; the Best of Canada award granted by Reader's Digest; Up! Magazine Value Award, presented by West Jet Magazine; and named as a finalist in the categories of Event of the Year and Business of the Year (single unit) in the Tourism Industry Association of Canada's (TIAC) National Tourism Awards program.
Over a forty-year period, Folklorama established a unique system that balances a strong central administration with autonomy at the community level. While product quality concerns, financial accountability and profitability for Folklorama and its member communities are constantly challenged by this structure, it is this structure that sustains both the festival and in many cases, the local cultural communities themselves.
The challenge is finding this balance and maintaining it.
The Response and the Result
For forty years, Folklorama has sustained a positive relationship with its member communities and stakeholders including Travel Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg, Destination Winnipeg, the American Bus Association, many media outlets and countless tour operators, travel writers and tourism schools.
The organization's unique revenue model generates millions for both Folklorama and for over 40 cultural communities per year. This model enables autonomy at the local level, by keeping revenues in the community allowing for re-investment in the continued nurturing of local cultures. In 2008 alone, Folklorama achieved a net surplus of $361,916 for the pavilion portion of its operation.
Folklorama is a forward thinking, well-managed organization which recently completed a 5-year strategic plan. Approved in 2008 by its 12 member board elected from membership, the plan demonstrates that Folklorama is a financially viable organization that limits dependency on government funding (over the past three years, only 18% of its revenues were derived from government sources while 82% of revenues were self-generating).
Folklorama's impact does not stop at the community and organizational level. The organization plays a key role in the sustainability of tourism through several initiatives including:
Destination Winnipeg estimates the annual economic impact of Folklorama to be $15,000,000 and Folklorama continues to look for ways to improve and expand. In addition to ongoing tourism-related programs and delivery of the festival itself, Folklorama's near future includes a focus on both product improvement and expansion: