Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival in Dauphin originated at a meeting of the Dauphin Chamber of Commerce and from there a founding group was established in 1965. Board members were given a box of letterheads and five dollars worth of stamps to start. A constitution was drawn up and general guidelines were set forth. One important guideline was that the festival should reflect Ukrainian culture as it is in Canada, thus making the festival a national Ukrainian Canadian event The words “Canada” and “National” were to be included in the name of the festival. The logo was to be the Trident with the word “Bitaemo ”. The festival was to become an annual three day event with the hope of establishing a Ukrainian Village some time in the near future.
A great challenge lay ahead without a model for the group to visualize. The first order of business was to obtain entertainers for a grandstand performance that included Ukrainian dance groups, Ukrainian choirs, orchestras, soloists and musicians.
Many long hours and evenings were spent around the board room table brainstorming, adapting and revising plans. Interested persons were sought out to assist in filling the Dauphin Curling Rink with interesting and informative exhibits. Committee chairpersons were in place and pioneers were interviewed for further information. The Dauphin Rural Municipality offices not only became the meeting place, but were also a valuable source of historical information about the surrounding rural areas. The Manitoba government Department of Tourism supported this project and gave valuable guidance.
Ideas needed to be generated to hold this three day event and would be modified to suit the overall theme. The timing of the event also provided ideas for celebration. Harvest or “Obzenky” celebrations which occur at the end of August resulted in the idea of having an official host and hostess for the event. A Hospodar and Hospodynia were selected. Amateur dance and other competitions were organized to interest youth. The tasks were separated into units with a committee chairperson taking the responsibility for research of entertainment and creation of suitable cultural activities.
A celebration such as this festival held in Dauphin is very appropriate because of the historical evidence in the area. First, the population of the area is largely of Ukrainian descent. Secondly, the Cross of Freedom and St. Michael’s Church provided the basis for the Sunday celebrations. There was excitement and anticipation for Canada’s 1967 Centennial and the 1970 Manitoba Centennial which gave incentive for suitable projects nationwide.
The festival became a huge success thanks to the many performers who willingly offered their talents. A large number of volunteers contributed their time and effort far beyond the call of duty, and a framework for succeeding festivals was established. What was only an idea, had blossomed into a magnificent Ukrainian Cultural festival, which is held every August long weekend.
In 1984 SELO UKRAINA site was completed on the picturesque slopes of Riding Mountain National Park, just 12 km south of the city of Dauphin. A historical event took place to commemorate the Official Opening of SELO UKRAINA by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on October 5, 1984 in Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada.
In 1985 Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival moved from the city of Dauphin, to its permanent home at the official CNUF festival site at Selo Ukraina. The move to SELO UKRAINA was officially declared by officials of the CNUF Board and the SELO UKRAINA Board on Feb. 12, 1985.
On August 2nd, 2013, the Premier of Manitoba Greg Selinger presented to CNUF, a Proclamation by the Province of Manitoba hereby officially proclaiming the “Saturday of every August long weekend as Manitoba Ukrainian Canadian Heritage Day” The proclamation states the importance to recognize and celebrate the Ukrainian Canadian heritage and achievement as an integral part of Canada’s multicultural identity.
On July 31st, August 1st & 2nd, 2015 Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival celebrated its 50th Anniversary. At the Opening Ceremonies on Friday, July 31st, the Premier of Manitoba Greg Selinger on behalf of the Manitoba government, presented to CNUF a “Celebrate Manitoba Award” recognizing special events that honour our past, reflect the diversity of our heritage and the span of our creativity. The Manitoba government applauds those that have achieved significant anniversaries and made enduring contributions to the wellbeing of Manitobans through the arts, community building and the sharing of cultural knowledge. This award was presented to Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival to commemorate its 50th Anniversary 1966 to 2015 with sincere gratitude to the many volunteers, organizers and supporters responsible for its continued success.
In the fall of 2015, CNUF was faced with the loss of their Office and Boutique due to a Fire in the building they were renting. Many artifacts, files and irreplaceable items were destroyed. It has taken several years to regain information and there are items that will never be replaced due to them being artifacts.
In the years of 2016 through to 2019 CNUF strived to provide and carry on the Ukrainian Traditions and Cultures and showcase new entertainment, performers and added attractions to our Annual Festival. In 2019, CNUF had their first Sunday night Extravaganza Showcase where we highlighted two Professional Dance Groups who wowed the crowd!
In the years 2020 and 2021, due to the Global Pandemic of Covid-19 we were unable to hold an in person Festival. For our 55th and 56th Anniversary we had to think outside the box on how we will continue showcasing our Festival and Ukrainian Culture and Heritage. Thus when our Virtual Festivals came to life. The support from Entertainers, sponsors and views was incredible and we would not have done this without them.
In 2022 we celebrated 57 years of Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival. This year is extra special as well to honour all the fallen who have been affected by the Russian Invasion War on Ukraine. We admire the courage of those fallen, the strength of those fighting and pray for the safety of everyone affected. Our live in person festival was alive again and striving with wonderful entertainment, patrons and Ukrainian Spirit.
In 2021 CNUF celebrated 50 years of being a Chamber Member in the Community of Dauphin and along with this achievement were nominated for the “Volunteer Organization of the Year”. This was a proud nomination for our board and organization.
2023 marked our 58th Anniversary and with this celebration we re-branded our festival slogan “The Spirit of Ukraine, in the Heart of Canada”. This phrase could not be more fitting for our Festival. Many performers came from near and far to present their beautiful dance pieces for patrons from around North America. We hosted Shumka Ukrainian Dancers for our Saturday evening showcase along with many new additions to the festival.
We are planning for our next festival year and looking towards our 60th celebration in 2025.