More than 8,000 people attended Banana Days in Melita over the August long weekend, the first time since 2019 that the event has been able to take place.
The town of Melita, 131 kilometres southwest of Brandon, is located in what is known as Manitoba’s “banana belt,” a segment of a larger geographic region that enjoys warmer weather than the rest of the province year-round. The community has embraced its unique geographic location with a yearly festival known as Banana Days, which, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was not able to happen the last two summers.
Darren Stewart, part of “Team Banana,” the committee that is responsible for making the well-loved festival happen, said this year’s Banana Days comeback was nothing short of “tremendous.”
“I was absolutely just blown away,” Stewart said. “Every time we put it on, it amazes me.”
This year, Banana Days featured a parade, fireworks, many bouncy castles, beer gardens, live music, a reptile show, dinosaur presentations and even dog shows and a petting zoo.
Kelly Lewis, another member of Team Banana, said the community has sorely missed the event.
“There was lots of buzz in the weeks leading up to it, and people were very excited when we announced that Banana Days would be back and put out our save the dates for August,” Lewis said. “It’s tricky because this summer everything got back to normal, so there were a lot of weddings, lots of different events, so I know people were pulled in lots of different directions and had to pick and choose what they attended. We were really unsure about what attendance would be like, but we were absolutely blown away by the crowds that showed up.”
Lewis said planning the event was a little more hectic post-pandemic, but it all came together really well in the end.
“We got sort of a flow going,” she said. “I think we all kind of forgot how much work it was.”
It was work that all the volunteers for Team Banana were more than ready to do, Lewis said.
“Everybody was happy to be there.”
All the hard work paid off with the surge in attendance. Lewis said that in 2019, there were slightly more than 6,000 attendees for the long weekend. This year’s jump, she said, is thanks to people from surrounding communities coming to Melita to enjoy Banana Days.
“I think it helps to kind of put us on the map,” Lewis said. “It [also] brought lots of people home. It’s really nice to see class reunions and families getting together and having that weekend to connect with each other and hang out and enjoy themselves.”
The event brings the community together, too, Lewis said.
“We get to know different community members because you might be on a volunteer shift with them at some event, and get to know each other that way, or you’re playing against each other at slo-pitch,” she explained. “It really just highlights the community support that we have.”
Stewart said Team Banana has already started planning for next summer’s Banana Days.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun