The 2023 Altona Sunflower Festival bloomed into a vibrant celebration, captivating residents and visitors with its weekend events. The Sun Valley Co-op Family Movie Night in the Park kicked off the festivities, featuring the Mario Bros Movie, setting the tone for a fun-filled weekend.

Friday's highlight centred around the Altona Rhineland Emergency Services Fire Department, showcasing their heroism and community involvement. At Ecole Parkside School, families had a blast experiencing thrilling firetruck displays, equipment demonstrations, and even firehose target practice. Daring kids were allowed to try on fire suits, experiencing a taste of a firefighter's job. 

boy in firefighter gear

"The kids get to see the fire trucks up close. They get to try on firefighter gear. They get to see some of the tools we use and the parents get to see the same thing. We have a number of members that were in kindergarten when I was actively going into the schools when they grew up, they wanted to be firefighters. You can't put a price on somebody that wants something like that. It's a necessary service," said Daryl Rempel, a firefighter. 

On Saturday, the Altona Rhineland Emergency Services Fire Truck Pull saw teams showcasing their impressive strength, adding a competitive edge to the day. The Altona Panthers, Special Olympics Team, began the competition with a burst of excitement as participants lined up. The powerful display of determination brought the athletes, volunteers, and community members together to showcase their strength and support for the cause. 

The Altona PanthersThe Altona Panthers before the first fire truck pull

The heart of the festival was the coronation of the Manitoba Sunflower Festival Queen. The Queen Quest speeches and the Sunflower royalty fashion show were enthralling, but the crowning ceremony was the highlight of the entire event. Olivia Driedger was presented with the 2023 Manitoba Sunflower Festival Queen title, while Lanea Friesen and Dalila Friesen were celebrated as the First and Second Princesses respectively. The royal displays throughout the weekend added an atmosphere of elegance to the festivities.

Sunflower crowned girls

"I always remember the introduction of the judges and I thought someday I would love to do that. So when I was asked, without hesitation, I said yes. I see such growth in these young girls willing to step outside their comfort box, be their best authentic selves while trying different things. They're all beautiful, sincere, wonderful girls. It's great to be back, this is one of my favorite festivals in Manitoba," said Susan Yakabowich, who was a judge at the Manitoba sunflower festival and works for Abundance Canada.

A festival is only complete with delicious treats. The Mennonite Food Buffet was a mouthwatering spread that delighted attendees with its flavours and homely charm. 

"I've started coming here to the festival since I was little girl. I grew up in the area and I always come," said Helina who attended the festival.

Fun and excitement were seen in all activities throughout the weekend, catering to all ages and interests. There was something for everyone, from the Bounce-a-rama Inflatables and Axe Throwing for the thrill-seekers to the Altona Farmers Market and CultureFest. Eric the Juggler dazzled the crowd with his mesmerizing skills, while Face Painting added a burst of colour to the weekend.

"It's very nice to get out and have things in the community to do. They motivate me to get out and my son really enjoys it. It's good for all the community to have a motivation to go out," said Riley Tonna, who attended the festival.

Emma Peterson, Saturday's evening performer, stole the show. Her mesmerizing performance had the audience dancing and singing along, creating an electric atmosphere. Towards the end, she invited people up close on stage, turning the performance into an epic dance party.

The 2023 Altona Sunflower Festival was a shining success, leaving a trail of cherished memories and a promise to return even more dazzling in future years.