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Doukhobor spring festival returns, marking 75 years

Doukhobors will gather this weekend in Grand Forks and Brilliant for the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ spring festival, marking the 75th anniversary of the event and the first time it has been held in person since 2019.

“This festival signifies we rise like a phoenix from the ashes and we begin anew,” says Wendy Voykin, who is part of the organizing committee. “We’re back to have some fun.”

The festival, whose theme is “75 Years of Coming Together in Peace, Brotherhood and Song,” begins Saturday in Grand Forks at 10 a.m. at the USCC hall with a moleniye (prayer service), followed by tributes to those who have died during the past few years, a luncheon, and choral performances in the afternoon.

The next day the venue switches to the Brilliant Cultural Centre, with another moleniye, a picnic lunch, and then more music, including three different men’s groups, and a sing along of favourite peace and folk songs.

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A select group will also get their due.

“We will be recognizing a small group of people who were the youth at the very first festival in 1947,” Voykin says. “They are still, many of them, actively involved today. It speaks to the resilience of the people we have in our community.”

Voykin says the festival has morphed over the years. It began when active Doukhobor youth locals in places like Shoreacres, Winlaw, and Ootischenia would each prepare programs to showcase at the festival. As time went on, it became less youth-specific and more about sharing choral work by all ages.

“The initial festivals were often held outside, where once inside there was a certain decorum that an audience was expected to have,” Voykin says. “We’re coming back with a festival in between. We will have the formality of the moleniye but the informality of all the visiting we need to reconnect.”

Voykin says she is not sure they will return to a strict presentation format, adding that they want “to ground ourselves with the human connection. That element that is so important to building communities.”

For the past two years, the festival has been held entirely online. Voykin credits “a very active and forward thinking youth council” for quickly shifting to a virtual format to keep the event going.

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