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Alberta lawmaker braves rain at SLAA picnic

By  | 30 July 2019 at 03:13 | 677 views

The expression ‘Rain on your Parade’ became ‘Rain on our Picnic’ for Sierra Leoneans in Edmonton, on Saturday 27 July 2019. The occasion was a much anticipated picnic organized by Sierra Leone Association of Alberta (SLAA) every year.

With the theme “Building a strong community and avoiding isolation,” several outdoor contests and games had been lined up for the all-afternoon event. Then it started to rain; just as SLAA executives and volunteers set the stage at the Rundle Park venue. “The skies opened up…and drenched the city and its festivals,” Global News Edmonton later reported.

Summers are not long enough here, and any outdoor time with family and friends is a gem. So, the picnic went on as scheduled. The turnout was quite impressive; making the excursion look – and feel - like Sierra Leoneans’ way of saying, “The show must go on.”

Among activities on the programme were soccer matches for various categories (men’s, women’s, and children’s). Volleyball, tug of war, sack race, egg-and-spoon, and musical chairs were also on the cards. The main event was a friendly international football match between SLAA’s men’s soccer squad and their Liberian counterparts. The game, postponed due to the rain, would have pitched guests Edmonton Lone Star against archrivals Edmonton Leone Stars.

Many of the other activities went on as planned; some, during the few breaks and lulls in the downpour. There was one more factor in the postponement of the Liberia/Sierra Leone soccer clash. Players, officials, and fans of Edmonton Lone Star were looking forward to their National Day celebration in the evening. The previous day, Friday 26 July 2019, marked Liberia’s 172nd Independence anniversary. Headed by its president Thomas Bumbeh, the Liberian Friendship Society of Canada (LFSC) had planned a dinner-and-dance for the following day, Saturday 27 July 2019. With the close ties between the two sister communities here, many Sierra Leoneans were looking forward to the Liberian soiree.

The SLAA picnic had food, music, and various activities for families and their guests. Abdullah Sesay even brought his dog Zenga. There were board games like draughts (aka ‘Draff’) as well. Some families brought their own tents in readiness for the rain. People made the most of the time - in or out of the shelter of the main pavilion. A few people played football in the rain. “We call it Rain Ball in Salone,” one boy joked. Younger children were not bothered the least. They had their bouncing castle; safely enclosed and ideal for tumbling.

Suddenly, there was a complete pause in the music blaring from Deejay Kelvin Kamara’s stereo. MC Daniel Oldfield had an announcement to make. “Our very own MLA David Shepherd is in the house,” Oldfield bellowed. There was loud cheering. The Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), re-elected earlier in 2019, went on to say a few kind words when he was handed the microphone. “It is always a pleasure to be with people of Sierra Leone,” he smiled. “Seeing you here, even when it is raining, shows your strong sense of community.” Representing the New Democrats Party (NDP) in the Edmonton Centre constituency, David Shepherd has a background in professional communications. He is now Health critic in the provincial Legislative Assembly of Alberta.

SLAA’s next big event is Sierra Leone’s participation at the coming Heritage Festival in Edmonton. The event will run from Saturday 3rd to Monday 5th August 2019 at Hawrelak Park. Fondly called ‘Heritage,’ the fiesta is an annual affair at which local communities showcase their cultural heritage. People look forward to it; to experience the unique arts and crafts, music and dance, food, clothing, and traditions of people from all over the world.

Artist Gibril Bangura is set to display some of his original works at the Sierra Leone pavilion. Gibril now lives in Edmonton with his family; having moved from Winnipeg, Manitoba, a few years ago. The artist is an active SLAA member and the association’s Facebook page has a preview of a few of his paintings.

SLAA assistant secretary-general Foday Conteh also informed The Patriotic Vanguard that ‘Arie Edmonton,’ and ‘Ndaegbormei’ are both set to fly the Green-White-and-Blue at the festival. Arie Edmonton is the the Hunting Society masquerade, while ‘Ndaegbormei’ is the Mende cultural club. Both are based here in Edmonton.
“We are consulting with cultural ambassadors Daniel Oldfield and Thomas TK Allie, as respective leaders of the two groups,” Conteh affirmed.

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