Forty Years of Family, Fun & Folklorama

Carol Simonson Gunvaldsen’s roots run-deep in the Folklorama community; she came because she was invited and has stayed for over forty years for the family and friends, being invited to take on various roles, and the fun of it.

“I find that Folklorama echoes Manitoba’s community center culture… Almost everyone in the family or community participates to help create or to attend the event”, states Carol. “Even the kids helped to make the food, the decorations, or the music. So, the experience of participating in Folklorama reminds me of my diverse family ties.”

Carol started out as a stage mother at the Ukrainian Pavilion, shepherding her daughter through dance rehearsals and music lessons, while her own mother worked in the kitchen. She went on to help out in the kitchen at the Swedish Pavilion – the same pavilion where, as a child, she had learned to dance, standing on her father’s and grandfather’s shoes. For the past 27 years, the Scandinavian Pavilion has been her home. The Scandinavian Pavilion is a family of five countries, all represented in one cultural center: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Within the pavilion, she has taken on a variety of roles including actor, singer, dancer, musician, MC, and most recently, Pavilion Coordinator. As Pavilion Coordinator, she is in charge of chairing meetings, working alongside other coordinators, and maintaining workplace safety (WHS) and quality assurance.

“Community involvement can be its own reward, in terms of people you meet and interact with, family ties you find, interests in common”, states Carol. “People are busy, families are widespread, and many of us don’t make the time to connect with those nearby, let alone those half a continent away. A laugh, a smile, a handshake, can often make people feel less alone. And sometimes the bonus is finding a long-lost friend or family member.”

The Scandinavian Pavilion is well-known for engaging audiences in the fun and silliness of what’s happening on stage. One of Carol’s favourite Folklorama memories was her very first costume monologue, where she describes herself as being an over-aged, too-tall Pipi Longstocking, the Swedish storybook character, with a daily spray of bright orange on her wired braids.

“The Scandinavian Pavilion has a tradition of being often over-stocked on nostalgic, slap-stick humour and sight gags – historical Scandinavian ‘vaudeville’.”

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