Recently, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair Jr. wrote an article about a Downtown Biz sponsored Manitoba Walk of Fame (April 3, 2014, Who's Most worthy of Walk?). It appears from what he described that it would be a concept similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame where plaques naming stars are placed along a sidewalk.
In Winnipeg’s case, it would be located in the planned SHED district where a lot of crowd activity is generated from the MTS Centre, the expansion of the RBC Convention Centre, the refurbished Metropolitan Centre, the Millennium Library and other people destinations in the designated district. The theme for selection would be along the lines of entertainment, sports and arts. It may end up being broader as it is described as a place of tribute and recognition for Manitoba achievement.
It is important that the public understands and appreciates that this new program is very similar to an existing local program and there may be a few individuals selected for inclusion in both.
The existing program is called the Citizens Hall of Fame which was established by WinnipegREALTORS® back in 1986. Founder Harry DeLeeuw — a REALTOR® and past-president of all three levels of organized real estate — worked very closely with former Mayor Bill Norrie to set the program up, which honours citizens who have made outstanding contributions and brought recognition to the city of Winnipeg. To date, 40 distinguished citizens have been selected. Besides receiving a bronze medallion at an annual induction ceremony, their likeness is sculpted by a local sculptor and then prominently displayed on a large granite pedestal in the formal garden area of Assiniboine Park (southeast entrance off Corydon Avenue).
Initially, the few inductee portraitures were displayed at city hall outside the mayor’s office, and then a bigger collection was on display along the Riverwalk near The Forks. The final home for the display of these works of art is now Assiniboine Park. They are exquisitely showcased among large elms with a pathway running between them. The site is absolutely outstanding for presentation purposes. Many Winnipeggers have come to appreciate what WinnipegREALTORS® has done to create a wonderful and peaceful setting for display of public art.
Inductees are nominated by the public. These nominations are then reviewed by a selection committee which is comprised of Winnipeggers representing a number of well-known civic organizations and a small Citizens Hall of Fame committee made up of REALTORS®. After consideration, the selection committee chooses one nominee (in most years) for induction. There were a few years where, thanks to the financial support of the Winnipeg Foundation, a second inductee was chosen from a period in Winnipeg’s early development. These historical inductees remind us of some of the great pioneers who laid the foundation for our city to grow and prosper since its inception in 1873.
What categories can a Citizen Hall of Fame inductee be chosen from? The five main categories are the arts, business, community service, professionals and public affairs. In more recent years, the program added other categories so that a nominator may be able to better describe why they think a Winnipegger is deserving of being nominated and selected into the Citizens Hall of Fame. No better example of this new category is Terry Fox, who, besides voluntary or community service, was nominated as a hero. Winnipegger Norma Currie was so inspired by Terry Fox’s accomplishments and legacy that she put his name forward and gave a moving speech in support of his nomination. Another example is Ben Hatskin, who was nominated for sports.
Many chosen are not celebrities or household names. For example, Mary Johnson was chosen as a literacy advocate; Dr. Sybil Shack as an educator; Sister Geraldine MacNamara as an advocate for inner-city youth; Donald Macdonald as a civic visionary; and Sol Kanee as a community builder. More well-known choices would be sculptor Leo Mol, who actually did a number of inductee portraitures including former mayors Steve Juba and Bill Norrie. Also, there is Nellie McClung, James Ashdown and Sir William Stephenson of historic fame.
The arts category includes the likes of Carol Shields, Arnold Spohr, Lionel Fitzgerald, John Hirsch and Gabrielle Roy. Some prominent professional and business inductees include Dr. Dhalla, Dr. George Johnson, Samuel Freedman, Israel Asper, William Loewen, Robert Chipman and Dr. Paul Thorlakson. Finally, we do have politicians but they were chosen for their contributions, not their office. A good example is Duff Roblin, who is credited with saving Winnipeg countless times because of the Red River Floodway.
Nominations are accepted year round with the cut-off date for this year’s nominations on November 30. Downloadable nomination forms and further information on this program can be found at www.winnipegfame.ca . And if you have not had a chance to see the sculptures in Assiniboine Park, spring is around the corner so go and check them out.