(I originally wrote this the morning after the event but then instead of posting just kept adding to it for a full week — insert face-palm emoji.)
There are a lot of Chortitzes on the prairies. I know of two in Manitoba and at least one in Saskatchewan. So I guess it’s a good thing that the Chortitz that is closest to me, is also called Randolph. That way there’s no confusion when I tell you that that is what I’m writing about today.
So, last night I did something I’ve never done before (or at least, haven’t done since my school days): read something I’ve written in front of people, in public.
This time, however, I was with Andrew.
He’s a natural!
I am not.
I was afraid I’d be nervous and speak too quickly. I’m a bit of a fast talker anyway and then when you add nerves into the mix it can be difficult for the listener to keep up. In grade school I’d take a 5-minute speech and it’d end up being one minute. It’s a major public speaking foible of mine, so I knew that if I wanted to do a good job, I had to calm down and be more conversationally-paced.
I’m not convinced I achieved these goals but I do think I was calmer than I have been in the past, and I would attribute this to a few factors — my advanced age, Andrew’s presence, but honestly a large part of it was the place: Neufeld Garage.
And the kind of people who choose to show up at Neufeld Garage.
I was going to post ahead of the event, telling you that I was going to speak there and you should come, but I didn’t want to just write a solicitation piece. So I just posted about it on Mennotoba’s Instagram stories (@therealmennotoba) and figured that’d be enough.
Now it’s over and I want to tell you about what happened.
I’ve written about my love for Neufeld Garage before. All this remains true. If you haven’t heard about it, you should follow them on Facebook or subscribe to their email newsletter because the events at Neufeld Garage are absolutely the best.
In fact, if you’re planning a road trip in southeast Manitoba and are seeking small town rural authentic warm friendly lively experiences… if you want to have a fun evening filled with warmth and joviality, hobnobbing with locals, you should follow Neufeld Garage on Facebook and buy tickets to their events. It’s exactly what I would do if I was planning a road trip to here (a.k.a. the place that I live). There’s entertainment on the stage, the giant buffet table is laden with treats, the giant coffee maker is doing its thing (and somehow it makes surprisingly GOOD coffee). The ambiance cannot be beat. (There’s a reason it’s been used as a movie set three times!) Yes this is a lengthy paragraph but you want to dive right into the culture of Southeast Manitoba, come hang out in this lovingly restored garage with the good folks who make this space possible. (It’s a community of people!)
So what did I have to say at this event? I shared my memory of the Randolph Rink (the history of the now-disappeared rink is documented throughout the Garage), I shared how my dad told me to get my lousy car repaired there because he trusted them to be honest and treat his teenaged daughter nicely and fairly (which they always did), and a bit about the history of this particular Chortitz and its importance to the Mennonites of Manitoba in the 1870s. I shared some of my favourite highlights of their cemetery and historic church.
Then I went all debbie-downer on them and reflected that it must have been disheartening when the rink was torn down in 2009 and the congregation stopped meeting in the church in 2010.
BUT NOW LOOK! Neufeld Garage was reborn in 2015, infusing new life and light into Randolph/Chortitz and I shared some of my favourite moments that I personally have enjoyed at their amazing venue: putting on a fundraiser for a friend, attending the Tractor Trek, a friend’s birthday and dance, and the famous Christmas Market (keep an eye on their page because I think it may be returning…!)
So that was kind of what I talked about. I don’t feel I was massively successful, however the atmosphere and people made it feel like a success and we had a great time.
Afterward, stepping out into the starry night into the storied village, I kind of had the same feeling as when I step out of one of the housebarns in Neubergthal at night.
I can’t put that feeling into words, but you probably know.
If you saw the poster for this event, you’ll know this was actually the facility’s AGM! I learned a lot. They presented an idea that had never occurred to me. Listen to this!
Do you ever play the “if we could plan our wedding over again, we’d do it this way” game? I don’t usually, BUT apparently one couple rented the Chortitz Heritage Church for their wedding, and Neufeld Garage for the reception — I think that is brilliant and wish Andrew and I had done that! The two are super close together and so very lovely, infused with history and authenticity and ongoing story. I can only imagine the convivial time they all had!
I guess this is as good a place as any to drop in some contact info for both venues! (And if I’m getting any of this wrong I hope someone corrects me!)
To rent Neufeld Garage: 204-381-0169 or firstname.lastname@example.org
To rent the Chortitz Heritage Church: 204-346-3987 or email@example.com