The skies threatened rain, grey clouds spread from horizon to horizon, but God loves Icelanders and the rain held off until the moment the ceremonies and speeches were finished. Just then, timed precisely, the first few drops could be felt.
Crowds started to gather early. From a block away, it was possible to see the Fjallkona on the Manitoba Legislative steps. Her white headdress and her green robe provided a focal point. By the time I reached the Legislative patio, the Fjallkona (Connie Magnusson Schimnowski) looking regal in her costume) was sitting between her two daughters with Harley Jonasson in attendance. On one side was the Canadian flag, on the other, the Icelandic flag.
One of the joys of these events is the gathering of the clan, people that one might otherwise not see from one year’s end to the next come together. Among these was Tim Samson, Dr. Ken Thorlakson, Keith Eliasson (from Riverton), Dilla Narfason (from Gimli), Vi Bjarnason-Hilton (with news of a group of 20 people leaving shortly for Iceland), Jim Anderson with his sister Sylvia (originally from Anderson’s Corner at Libau), Garry Oddleifsson, Peter Johnson (with the beautiful new brochure advertising Logberg-Heimskringla), Bryan Bjerring (Arnes), Einar and Rosalind Vigfusson (Arborg), Maria Bear (Selkirk), Raymond and Alma Sigurdson with their daughter Sandra (Willow Creek), Helga Malis (Gimli), Beverly and Einar Einarsson (Gimli), Linda Sigurdson-Colette. And lots more.
Under lowering skies, the Kvennakór Garðabæjar choir lined up on the Legislative steps and entertained with songs in Icelandic. One of the joys of Icelandic culture is the numerousl Icelandic choirs. Most of the time the choirs are male or, perhaps, mixed but this choir, all female, had a delightful, different sound. After the choir finished their program, we all gathered at the Jón Sigurdsson statue.
We gathered so efficiently, perhaps from past experience and knowing what we were doing, that we were ahead of schedule. We visited as we waited for His Honour, The Lieutenant Governor Phillip S. Lee and his wife, Her Honour Anita Lee. What a pleasure to have Phillip Lee for Lieutenant Governor I´ve been at many functions with him and he´s relaxed, friendly and, after attending many events that are Icelandic related, greatly improved with pronouncing impossible Icelandic names. Instead of pomp and ceremony built on self-importance, he is genuine and obviously enjoys people for at the end of the ceremonies, instead of having people stand while he retired, he stayed to mingle and talk to people.
I’ve been to a lot of ceremonies over the years and many are dreadfully boring. This was not the case. The impending rain drove no one away. The speeches were short, often humorous, informative and heart-felt. The greetings from the dignitaries which can be deadly dull weren’t. They were interesting and fun. Maybe Guttormor is right when he says in his poems that we are important and the reason we know we are important is because we say so; however, an Icelandic sense of humour always pours a bit of salt on our egos to keep them from getting too big and what comes through is a genuine sense of how much we like each other and our community.
Mr. Arni Thor Sigurdsson gave a good speech. The audience was pleased to hear about how Iceland’s economic situation is improving and how that Arni has visited the various Icelandic Canadian settlement areas and met relatives descended from Icelanders who immigrated to Canada.
I may be accused of bias because Connie Magnusson Schimnowski is a cousin of mine (but then who isn’t a cousin?) but I think she makes a regal Fjallkona and, certainly, since the Maid of the Mountains is supposed to represent the accomplishments of the community, she is a good choice. Her work for the Icelandic Canadian community in Manitoba has been life-long and extensive. She has coupled that with volunteer work in the broader community.
The formal ceremonies were over and rain began to fall. A bus provided by Bardal’s swished the officials away to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, then made repeated trips to pick up members of the audience. At the Art Gallery there was a presentation to Consul General Atli Ásmundsson and his wife, Þruður Helgadóttir. This was followed by a concert with more music from the Kvennakór Garðabæjar choir (conductor, Ingibjörg Guðjónsdóttir), followed by Björn Thoroddsen & the Björn Thoroddsen Trio.