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Lake Winnipeg's Paradise Beaches

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Page 6

GIMLI
NAR: About 90 minutes north of Winnipeg along the west shore is the town of Gimli. A unique beach community on Lake Winnipeg. A town with many dimensions and a lot of history. Bill Barlow is a high school teacher and mayor of Gimli.

BILL BARLOW: I applied for a teaching job and was interviewed and hired. Well it's almost 32 years ago now. Once I was here, once I had this job, the reason I stayed had a whole lot to do with geography. I mean here we are on the shores of one of the world's great lakes an absolutely remarkable body of water,

But there were other things too, I mean the story of the Icelanders scraping ashore here in 1875 and how they, in the face of really great hardship made this community a well planned community.

There's geography, there's the whole ethnic cultural thing. That spirit of tolerance, that progressive view of where this community is in terms of the world around us, that is extremely attractive. It's a great place to be.

We have quite a cultural life the signal event of the year is the Icelandic festival. Islendingadagurinn, the day of the Icelander, which is celebrated on the long weekend here in August. This little town of two thousand has about 30,000-35,000 in it for that celebration.

It's a great celebration of that cultural fact, that those people in the face of incredible hardship, established here a great foundation for a wonderful community.

NAR: Today Gimli is the lake's largest community. It's a full service town. And many are choosing to live and work from Gimli.

BILL BARLOW: The quality of life that is here is so attractive. People are coming to Gimli to live in the sort of 55 plus early retirement group which is a growth industry, people do find the area so attractive that the growth in that area is really quite phenomenal.

The name Gimli is certainly interesting to have a look at we know that Gimli is a place in Norse mythology where the righteous spend eternity. The fact that the early settlers in spite of having gone through a horrible winter and disease and so on still had the vision to name this place Gimli, which is a kind of paradise.

NAR: The first Europeans to settle on the lake were the Icelanders who arrived in 1875. Fleeing difficult times including volcanoes, the first arrivals liked what they saw. Their new paradise Gimli was teeming with fish. And in the woodlands game and berries were in abundance. The Icelanders received exclusive settlement right to an area of 812 sq km, and till 1877 operated as their own independent republic. While flooding, smallpox and scurvy threatened to destroy the community enough stayed.

BILL BARLOW: Today Gimli, the town of Gimli, a community of about 2000 people, permanent residents. It's surrounded by the rural municipality of Gimli, with another 3500 permanent residents. In the summertime, of course those populations quadruple in terms of people who are summer residents.

As you move north of the harbour there's a full kilometre of very excellent beach, which on a hot summer weekend will have four or five thousand people basking in the sun and dipping in those great refreshing waters of Lake Winnipeg.

We're on the shores of this great lake and it's so much a part of the history of Gimli.
We have here in Gimli one of the finest harbours that you'll find anywhere between the lakehead and Vancouver. It's a prairie harbour, and we have here a prairie ocean.
And I think people are always surprised when they come and can't believe it's in the Canadian prairie.

What you will see when you come into the harbour is Gimli's first industry, the commercial fishing industry that is alive and well as it was when it was first established in the 1870's. In three seasons of the year, in spring and fall and winter, our fishing fleet is on the lake, reaping the bounty of the lake.

 













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