Rockin' the Summer Lights Music Festival in Brandon, Manitoba

Nature and Culture in Brandon, Manitoba

By Karen Burshtein

Originally founded in 1882 as a hub for the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Wheat City is Manitoba’s second-largest urban area. While it still maintains deep agricultural and industrial roots, the city also fosters a growing cultural community.

Shop: At One & Only Design Studio, husband-and-wife design duo Patrick Kim and Jenny Kang showcase prized pieces, including vintage-inspired furniture and industrial light fixtures. Sip and shop with a beverage from in-house java counter O&O Coffee. 130 10th St.

Explore: The historic home of Thomas Mayne Daly II, Brandon’s first mayor, was reborn as the Daly House Museum. The facility features vintage dolls and toys, antique tools and rotating exhibits, such as the New Woman’s Fashion Revolution: 1880 to 1989. 122 18th St.

Eat: Brandon is crushing hard on Chez Angela, a new artisan bakery in the famed Bass Building. Owners James and Angie Chambers use a local-first approach for baked goods, like their bestselling Wheat City sourdough and buttery pain au chocolat. 29-C 10th St.

Shop: It’s Charlow, Darling! is the brick-and-mortar shop of candlemaker Charleston & Harrow Candle Co. Pick up one of their made-in-Brandon soy candles, such as the woodsy Smokey and the Bear or the pine-scented Wasagamazing. 29 10th St.

Karen Chrest is a Brandon mover and shaker. The former host of CKX TV’s The Noon Show also has a theatre background and is married to the mayor.

What’s the theatre scene like in Brandon?
It’s really vibrant and I’m so proud to a part of the community. I have performed in dozens of productions, ranging from small one-act shows to large-scale musicals and dramas. My recent projects include August: Osage County and a production of Always: Patsy Cline, which we later brought to the stage of Winnipeg’s MTC Warehouse Theatre.

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Brandon punches above its weight when it comes to music. How can visitors take part?
The music scene here is amazing: We have a renowned music program at Brandon University; the Brandon Chamber Players offer a concert series; and the Brandon Jazz Festival attracts talented musicians every year. There’s free Music in the Park and our Summer Lights Music Festival. With live music in large concert venues, you can also hear everything from Jann Arden to The Wiggles.

Any insider tips?
Brandon is far more cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse than people might think. Thanks to the influx of new Canadians settling here, restaurants have sprung up—from Ethiopian to Indian to Latin American. For an unrivaled culinary experience, check out any event hosted by the Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts at Assiniboine Community College. Our restored heritage buildings are also local treasures; they’re filled with boutiques, bakeries and trendy lofts.

brandon manitoba riverbank discovery centre
Brandon’s Riverbank Discovery Centre

Check out these cool and varied outdoor spaces in the city and just beyond.

1 The Riverbank Discovery Centre marks the starting point for an extensive urban trail system, much of which runs through wetlands and prairie grasses. You’ll also find a playground, outdoor fitness stations and a new 3,000-seat amphitheatre. 545 Conservation Dr.

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2 With the Assiniboine Food Forest in Brandon’s east end, naturalist Dave Barnes works to regenerate a bio-diverse eco-system through permaculture principles. Share in his work by taking one of Barnes’ guided walk through the food forest trail, where you’ll encounter rehabbed riverbeds and forests. 201 17th St. E.

3 For skateboarders, Kristopher Campbell Memorial Skate Plaza is a must-visit. The innovative and accessible skate park has earned worldwide recognition for its layout, which follows the floor plan of the old Prince Edward Hotel that once stood on the site. 908 Princess Ave.

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