Cultural Capital of Canada

This logo for the Chautauqua Spirit Project was designed by Yvonne Peters – Inner Eye Design.

Morden is proud to have been designated a 2008 Cultural Capital of Canada by Heritage Canada. Here is just a few details about the project.

When Was The Award Announced?

On behalf of the Honourable Beverly J. Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage, Brian Pallister, Member of Parliament for Portage-Lisgar, announced that Morden was designated one of the 2008 Cultural Capitals of Canada on June 27th, 2007 at the Pembina Hills Art Centre.

What was the project called?

The project was called Chautauqua Spirit.

Who was involved in the Chautauqua Spirit Project?

Nancy Penner, Project-Co-ordinator; Carol Wilkinson, Community Resources Officer; Larry Danielson, Executive Chair; Wes Hamm, Music Events Manager; Yvonne Peters, Visual Arts Events Manager; Gerald Pauls, Speech Arts Events Manager; David Wilkinson & Anita Janzic, Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre Events Managers; Cameron Friesen, Chautauqua Celebration Festival Manager; Ernie Epp, Town of Morden CAO; Brian Hildebrand & Ron Laverty, Town of Morden Councillors; Mayor Doug Wilson; and representatives of many arts and culture organizations in Morden.

Why Morden?

Morden is a beautiful Town of some 7,000 residents set on the edge of the Pembina Hills in Manitoba’s Pembina Valley. It offers an enviable quality of life. Thanks to the excellent volunteerism, the talent of its residents and Town Council’s support, the community was selected as one of the four communities in Canada to be awarded the 2008 Cultural Capital of Canada. Morden was the first Manitoba community to receive this award. The following are just a few reasons why.


The Town of Morden donates generously and supports the needs of various cultural events and organizations, the Festival of the Arts, the Back Forty Folk Festival, Southern Manitoba Concerts, and the Corn & Apple Festival to name just a few.

The Morden Festival of the Arts

The Morden Festival of the Arts is part of the Manitoba Festival movement and has been established here for many years. With hundreds of student entries, it has become the 5th largest Festival in the province. It develops artistic talents and provides competitions in voice, choir, piano, strings, concert band, dance, visual arts, and French and English speech arts. The Town makes a Festival donation each year and contributes space at our Recreation Centre for the Visual Arts component.

The Back Forty Folk Festival

The Back Forty Folk Festival is held in Morden Park on the first weekend in June. This year celebrating its 20th season, the Back Forty aims to keep homemade music alive in Southern Manitoba. The Town donates the park space, restroom facilities, and financial support when necessary.

Southern Manitoba Concerts

Classical music is also alive and well in Morden, thanks in part to Southern Manitoba Concerts. Now in its 36th season, SMC is one of the longest surviving small-town regional concert series performed in Canada and it has brought to our stage many world-famous performers—e.g. Liona Boyd, Shauna Ralston, the Chieftans, the Rankin Family, the National Arts Orchestra, the San Francisco Opera Company, and even the Peking Circus. The Town provides the performance space at the Recreation Centre, sets up chair risers in the auditorium and makes an annual donation.

Corn & Apple Festival

The Morden Corn & Apple Festival is held at the end of August and is the largest outdoor festival of its kind in Manitoba. It is over 40 years old and receives substantial financial support from the Town coffers. Free to the public—including the apple cider and hot-buttered corn—the event includes an art show, a craft show, live musical performances and a country music dance.


The above organizations all rely on volunteers for their success. But not everything in the Town of Morden can rely on volunteers.

Morden’s fossil museum has the largest collection of marine reptile vertebrates in Canada. It has catalogued hundreds of specimens from the late Cretaceous period, including a 43-foot long Mosasaur and an equally impressive Plesiosaur among its 600 specimens.

To insure that this priceless part of our heritage is properly maintained and developed to its full potential, the Town of Morden now funds three full-time CFDC staff—Curator Anita Janzic, Executive Director Dave Wilkinson and Administrator Yvonne Peters.

Pembina Hills Arts Centre

In the Pembina Hills Arts Centre, located in downtown Morden, the Town provides the building, supports the maintenance and helps to fund two part-time staff.


If you come to Morden, you will quickly see our architectural, historical, artistic and botantical heritage. The contributed $2.9 Million to build the Morden Recreation Centre (built in 1969). despite controversy that the building was a “white elephant” and would not be used. The reverse was true and, to accommodate all the activity, the building has required several expansions, including a major redevelopment in 2008 at a cost of over $2 Million.

The multipurpose stage in the Recreation Centre auditorium was home to many productions by The Company, a community theatre group that thrived here for nearly 40 years, to touring performances sponsored by Southern Manitoba Concerts, and to many school drama productions.

Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame

In the south hall, you can browse the many exhibits of the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame Museum and relive the baseball past of many communities. This facility is one of only two provincial baseball museums in Canada and it is open to the public at no charge. When the museum moved to Morden in January, 1996, the Town spent $65,000 to renovate the space. The Town funds the Hall of Fame’s total space costs and provided an additional 1000 square feet of floor space in the 2008 renovations.

Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Our “Star Attraction,” of course is in the basement and that is the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre. Town Council initiated this space for the museum in 1979, and in the several years that followed, it funded renovations of about $250,000, including its portion of the fossil display galleries. (The federal government also provided $165,000 funding for these displays).

A unique feature of our paleo-museum is that its license allows staff to train volunteers to participate in a dig – with the possibility of finding important fossil remains. In 2005, the fossil museum purchased a fossil-rich dig-property of 109 acres located in the Manitoba Escarpment 20 minutes drive northwest of Morden. The Town helped CFDC staff apply for and secure “Star Attraction” status from Travel Manitoba. This revered designation applies only to tourist destinations that are unique and memorable and it now brings the CFDC to the fore.

The Town initiated a process to establish the CFDC as a museum which may rival the Royal Tyrell in Drumheller, Alberta. A feasibility study has been completed for a new museum to be located just west of town on the Manitoba Escarpment.

Historic Downtown

The historic downtown and the many mature tree-lined streets have stone mansions built over a hundred years ago by Scottish immigrants using local fieldstone. On the front wall of many stores, you will see historic plaques, describing the many businesses that have occupied those premises. In the very centre of Morden, you’ll see a prominent heritage building with an iconic clock tower. Constructed by the Canadian Postal service in 1913, it became our Pembina Hills Arts Centre in 1993. The Town purchased the building and now assists with the annual operational grant. The new gallery lighting system helps display the work of local and touring artists to their best advantage.

The Town also supports capital renovations for the Art Centre building, with a major contribution to refurbishing the building’s exterior.

If you walk around the Arts Centre building, as many visitors do, you may note many interesting features and not think of the Town’s contribution to them. In the Suncatch area at the southeast corner, you might admire a bronze sculpture by the famous Leo Mol. That was a memorial gift from Ruth Winkler, one of our former citizens, but the Town developed the Suncatch grounds and designed the landscaping.

Had you time for more tours, we could take you to see our town gardens and parks. We could show you the Henry Marshall Rose Garden in front of Morden’s Civic Centre. It displays an important part of our botanical heritage. Henry H. Marshall, a self-taught scientist who worked at our federal Research Station, created all of the roses in the Parkland series. He introduced over forty plants of several genre and, in Canada, four of his cultivars outsell all other roses combined.

Building the ‘Village Beautiful’ has not always been a top priority with past councils. In 1982, Ruth Winkler—a feisty senior with a fierce love for Morden—challenged the Council of her day to improve the town’s sidewalks. She organized a group of volunteers to walk every inch of the town walks, documenting their need for repairs. That Council responded under pressure. But the Council of our day needs no such prompting. This Council champions our heritage, whether it is baseball museums, prehistoric fossils, heritage buildings, or the botanical legacy of plant-breeders. It also promotes the talents of young artists, folk musicians, and touring performers.


Culture permeates the daily lives of Mordenites in many ways. Visits to museums and art galleries, public displays of artwork, theatrical, musical and dance performances, community festivals and appreciation of natural heritage are all examples of how culture touches our lives.

Everyone in society shares the responsibility for encouraging and supporting culture. Serving as a representative of the people, the Morden Town Council is entrusted with the task of nurturing and sustaining culture for succeeding generations.


Council adopted a Cultural Policy (CS-007), on March 13th, 2006. The following is an abbreviated version of the policy, a full copy is available on the Morden website at;

The successful implementation of this cultural policy relies on the leadership of Council, the strength and vitality of partnerships, and more specifically, the significant contributions of our artists, volunteers, private-sector organizations, and community groups. In turn, the growth, development and quality of cultural activities and programs will inspire pride and further commitment from the community.


The cultural policy is based on the following fundamental beliefs held by the Town of Morden;

  • That culture substantiates our society, helping us to define who we are as a people.
  • That multiculturalism stimulates new ideas and challenges us to look at life in other ways, and that the contributions of the Anglophone, Francophone, German and other cultures living in Morden enhance the lives of all Mordenites.
  • That, beginning early in life, culture has a profound beneficial effect on the development of the individual, and that this needs to be supported with lifelong learning opportunities.
  • That the expertise of artists and heritage professionals must be valued and recognized.
  • That artistic independence, integrity, the pursuit of excellence and freedom of expression must be encouraged and supported.
  • That culture, including cultural industries and enterprises, plays an important role in the economic prosperity of our Town.
  • That heritage resources are important, and that heritage stewardship encompasses our cultural and natural environment, inherited from the past, contributed to by the present, and handed on to the future.
  • That it has a responsibility, in partnership with others, to protect and enhance the cultural heritage resources and artistic expression of Morden.


The policy goals identified below establish the general direction that will be pursued by the Town of Morden.

  • Improve awareness of, access to, and participation in cultural activities, and to encourage excellence in these endeavours.
  • Preserve Morden’s culture and cultural resources and to increase cultural opportunities.
  • Maximize the economic benefits of culture to improve Morden’s position in the local economy


  • The adoption of a Cultural Policy for Morden is not an end in itself, it is in fact a starting point.
  • This policy is a tool that will enable the Town Council and other partners in the arts and heritage sectors to share a common vision for development and promotion of culture.
  • The Town of Morden encourages individual and collective creativity, whether rooted in tradition, supported by new technologies, or bearing the bold stamp of contemporary culture.
  • Residents of Morden show tremendous creative potential; as individuals, in different ways as they seek to take part in the cultural life of Morden.
  • Creativity, expressed in all forms and at all ages, is a good indicator of a balanced society, a powerful stimulus for social and economic prosperity, and an essential component of well-being.
  • Thus Morden continues to acknowledge our heritage, support cultural diversity, and promotes the unique features that enrich our Town’s culture.