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Gimli, Manitoba, Canada is a small town located on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg. A weekend destination for Winnipeggers - it is about a two-hour drive outside of the city. It attracts about 10,000 cottagers and 100,000 tourists every single year.*

It has everything you might expect from a cottage town: beaches, concerts and festivals. The most famous one is Islendingadagurinn (Icelandic Festival) which according to organizers is the second-longest running ethnic festival in North America (an Irish festival held in Montreal is a few years older). Islendingadagurinn was first held in Winnipeg in 1890 but moved to Gimli in 1932 and has since been held there. It usually takes place on the August-long-weekend holiday.

Most Gimli residents are descendants of immigrants from Iceland. In 1875 a group of Icelanders landed their boats at Willow Point, about a mile south of the town. Many of them were escaping the eruption of a volcano at home. The Icelanders found the Manitoba winters quite cold and unforgiving - Iceland is situated North of the Gimli, but the latter, land-locked, does not benefit from the warming effects of ocean currents.

As an Icelandic-Canadian, I have attended the festival quite a number of times. If you ever get a chance to go - grab it! Days are spent by the fresh water lake where you can walk for a mile and the water never goes over your head (this is the perfect place to learn to windsurf!) The nights are spent around campfires singing along to a guitar strumming until dawn. The parade (which is fun for children but not recommended for anyone else) is complete with a queen (Fjallkona) who is not chosen for her looks but for her leadership in the community.

*www.rmgimli.com