Altona: Where Art and Mennonites Collide

Back in the 80’s, the schools in Kleefeld and Grunthal certainly seemed to have it in for each other. Living between the towns, even out-to-lunch ol’ me was aware of that one. Seems like people always greatly dislike the ones that are the most like them in some way. Have you noticed that, too?

This same phenomenon seemed to have occurred regarding the East and West Mennonite Reserves. You know, that whole yantsied thing: the other side of the river. The Red River. I think that was supposed to be derisive… but tongue-in-cheek, because as soon as you cross the river, well, now the place you just were is yantsied. A nod to the earthy humour of the Low German language and the users of this dialect.

Anyway, so growing up on the east side of the river, the west side was generally dismissed as being somewhat backward. (Even though the people I knew that lived there were far more savvy than I personally was.) The sentiment likely goes both ways. Right?

But I have learned this is not the case. At some point my world expanded and I got to know plenty of people over in the Altona area… which has led to me visiting… and opening my eyes… and seeing that when it comes to arts and culture, the West Reserve has got it going ON.

Let’s look at the facts.

Their music scene is thriving! Altona’s Blues in the Park Festival… The Back 40 Folk Festival in Morden… and to get you through, Dead Horse Entertainment puts on all kinds of fantastic shows throughout the year. Not to mention the concerts we’ve attended in Neubergthal.

In fact, when we were recently in Altona, we checked out the stunning Gallery in the Park. There are all kinds of sculptures in the garden outside that you can wander around and check out… you’ll likely be busy for at least an hour, depending on how long you take to stop and stare. I’d say the collection is world-class. Seriously impressive, you really should go. Also, it begs the question… why don’t we have something like that in Steinbach? (Maybe someone’s working on that, I’ll be optimistic.)

Then you have the Pembina Valley Studio Tour in early September. You pick up a map from one of the many supporters of the local arts, and drive around to artist’s studios, almost 30 of them, I believe!

Ultimately, that giant Van Gogh on a giant easel that Altona’s known for? It’s a solid indication of all the art the area fosters, if you take the time to stop and look.

(When you go… make sure you dine at Pizza Haven. So, SO good. We ate there twice in one day, and it was amazing.)