Grant Nazarko is the recent recipient of the Winnipeg Centre M.P.s 150th Anniversary medal for volunteerism. Grant, with assistance from the Downtown Biz, has been responsible for the Living Flag here in Manitoba, which has helped make Winnipeg a better place to live. He has, for over 7 seven years, brought people together and made getting people downtown a mission. Through this initiative, we now rub shoulders together every July 1 with between 3500 and 5000 citizens from all walks of life. Everyone should be a part of the experience of building communities like Grant.
Grant Nazarko became involved with creating a Canada Day Living Flag in 2011 after some arm twisting by friend Ken Kelly. Ken Kelly started the Living Flag concept in 2006 when he was the general manager of Downtown Victoria Business Association and has continued to promote this activity across Canada.
In 2011 after approaching a couple of Winnipeg organizations the Winnipeg’s Downtown Biz agreed to assist and support this concept. The Biz has continued to support this activity. The first three Canada Day living flags (2011, 2012 and 2013) were held in front of the Manitoba Legislative building. The picture from the 2013 Living Flag was used in one of the Canada Post commemorative stamps.
The Living Flag project provides an opportunity to showcase the city and in 2014 it was decided to leave the beautiful legislative grounds and our Golden Boy backdrop and use other famous city landmarks. In 2014 the Living Flag was formed at the Forks with the Museum of Human Rights as a backdrop. In 2015 and 2016 the Living Flag was created at Shaw Park with Winnipeg’s hi-rises at Portage and Main as a backdrop in 2015 and the Museum of Human Rights as a backdrop in 2016.
Canada’s 150th anniversary provided an opportunity to do something unique. The Winnipeg Biz was able to have Portage and Main closed for 2 hours. Knowing that 7 or 8 other Canadian cities were planning to compete with Winnipeg to create Canada’s largest Living Flag it was an opportune time to do something completely unique during the limited 2 hours.
Grant decided that the iconic intersection of Portage and Main would be a perfect place to create Canada’s first and largest living maple leaf. The success was evident with over 15 million viewing of the Dan Harper’s time lapse video and the number of international news services that carried the event. Winnipeg’s international coverage is the envy of the other cities that created living flags…some bigger then Winnipeg’s winning flags in past years.
The concept of a Living Flag provides an opportunity for participants to meet and show their pride of being a Canadian, especially meeting new Canadians. It is an opportunity to create a little competition between cities and to showcase their city.
Creating an event in downtown Winnipeg coincides with my belief that downtowns need to have events that will bring urbanites downtown to see and experience the vibrancy of the core area and hopefully encourage them to spend more time downtown.
No community project is successful unless there are a large number of volunteers and participants. Noted help by Stantec, and the continued assistance by Janice Dobson, Joe MacKenzie and Teresita Guerra and the 70+ other volunteers has made this a successful event. Many volunteers have participated in all the 7 years. In the 7 years that we hosted a Living Flag type event in Winnipeg we have had over 21.000 participants. On a national basis there have been in excess of 230,000 individuals forming living flags from Victoria to Charlottetown.
Grant adds, “On a personal basis I am a passionate Canadian and fervent supporter of Winnipeg. I am a retired business owner, married to Eileen for nearly 43 years, father of 4 and grandfather of 6….soon to be 7. I continue to volunteer on several levels including Vice President of Columbus Courts (a Manitoba Housing low income housing facility) Board of Directors, the upcoming Canada Games, and other community and church organizations. I believe that “you must put more into your community then you take out”. A motto my Dad instilled in his family.”