Each year, the Transcona BIZ hosts the Festival of Banners. This initiative invites all students in Transcona to participate in a project that recognizes the artistic talent that exists in the community and strengthens the partnerships between local schools and businesses within the Zone.
History of Festival of Banners
Each year, we select a different theme for the banners. Some themes from previous years include:
2023 Dinosaurs Roam Transcona
2022 Transcona Out of this World
2021 Transcona Wild
2020 The Unofficial Bird of Transcona, the Flamingo
2019 There’s No Place Like Home
2018 Park City
2017 Canada Summer Games
2016 I Found it in Transcona – Showcasing Our Hidden Gems
2015 Your Canada, Your Transcona – 50th Anniversary of the Maple Leaf Flag
2014 Transcona Memories – Hi Neighbour Festival 50th Anniversary
2013 Good Neighbours/Strong Communities
2012 Transcona Centennial
2011 Healthy Living/Active Lifestyles
Throughout the years, with the assistance of the division’s Art Consultant at RETSD, requests for banner submissions have been distributed to schools throughout Transcona. The students then create their banner designs on paper to scale, and all these are submitted to the Transcona BIZ, where a panel of community “judges” will select the winning entries to be painted as actual banners. Over an intensive 3 days, students, BIZ staff, parents and school staff work to assist the students in painting their banners. Transforming a 4 by 11-inch drawing into a 30 by 90-inch street banner is not an easy task, especially for students in elementary school! The BIZ typically receives over 1000 paper submissions.
In recent years, we’ve had to do things a little bit differently, sending our contest home as homework! Students are encouraged to create their banners and drop them off or mail them into the BIZ office at 108 Bond St. The winners are chosen by the community online. Our Transcona BIZ Summer Students trace the submissions onto the double-sided banners and put together painting kits of heavy-duty outdoor paint and brushes. Once everything is ready, families are invited to pick up their banners and supplies and begin the painting process at home. A lot of parents remark about how much bigger the banners are when they are down from the light poles, but also how much fun working on this project together is.
Over the years the Festival of Banners program has been acknowledged in many ways. In 2017, it was recognized on a national scale by the Canada Summer Games Committee. Their Eyes of the Nation Launch event took place in Transcona with several of the young banner artists in attendance displaying their banners proudly.
Make sure to check out all the banners hanging throughout Transcona, along Regent Ave West between Day Street and Plessis, along Bond Street between Regent Ave and Pandora, along Pandora Street between Day Street and Plessis, and on Plessis Street from Pandora heading south under the underpass.
SEPTEMBER 2023 – Goodbye to the Festival of Banners
If I have learnt anything in my time with the Transcona BIZ it’s that “You can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time”. This has been a hard lesson for me when it comes to the Festival of Banners program. I truly have enjoyed seeing the creativity of the submissions, seeing the joy and excitement when a child brings their banner back to the office and wants to show it off and most of all the photos of the children once their banner is hung and they get to appreciate their hard work. Those photos can be found throughout this month’s issue of our magazine.
However, like all good things there is a bad side. In my time here, I have had parents and even just random community members criticize what we are doing here with regards to the Festival of Banners. It started with the “lack of transparency” with the voting and so with the global pandemic it gave us an opportunity for change and brought the voting online – opening it up to the community and allowing everyone to be a part. I thought at the time that this would be a great way to feature all the submissions and let the community know that this was part of a larger project, not just the 65 banners that get hung each year.
We started this year with the opportunity for the community to vote on a theme and even with that came with criticism. People commented wanting a “more Transcona theme” – honestly, I don’t even know what that means. This year submissions have Dinosaurs exploring Transcona, climbing the clock tower, roaming the streets next to Hi Neighbour Sam and one even shopping at Marshalls/HomeSense! Last year’s “Out of this World” theme had Sam in a space suit, flamingos exploring mars and even the 2747 driving in outer space. Taking the larger theme and bringing it to Transcona is part of the creativity of this program.
This year I received emails from parents about how they didn’t like the voting process – however this program isn’t mandatory. No child is required to participate. Any school that submits a child’s work and the parent wants it removed can have it removed – no questions asked.
This year we got a few messages about it being a “popularity contest”, even though every year we have a few parents that come in to pick up their child’s supplies that didn’t even know they were in the contest – showing me that the process can work if the parents just left it alone. If everyone just voted once and moved on. There are many community members that don’t have children in the program that like the opportunity to vote and see all the submissions.
The emails about the process being “a full-time job getting votes” – no one asked you to solicit votes. We sent out the link for you to vote and share with your family, not vote and revote day after day, harassing family and friends and even strangers to vote for your child. We just wanted you to see your child’s work and to be proud of the creativity.
It was brought to my attention this year that some parents were manipulating the votes, the voting allows for one vote, per submission, per IP address. Some parents took it upon themselves to use a VPN to change their IP address over and over again to generate 100s of votes. This put me in the very difficult position to disqualify some children’s submissions. This isn’t how a child’s contest should be and it is very disheartening.
Then came the email that the platform I had chosen was going to cause mental health issues and any suicide from a child participating would be on my head. I honestly cried in my office. Is this truly how we are handling things now? That we are blaming a person running, what amounts to, a children’s colouring contest in our community for the negative effects that the internet has on the world?
There have been many “suggestions” about how this program should run. This includes “only letting good artists participate and a child that is good at music, sports or math shouldn’t be able to participate” (I actually had a woman called me multiple times throughout the year to tell me she was “disgusted” by a banner hanging where she gets her groceries. Really?? Isn’t art subjective??) We had the suggestion that “every child should be able to hang a banner” – there are 65 spots, with each bracket costing $400 each, the total paint, supplies, material, and hanging cost almost $8,000 for this program annually – not including staff hours dedicated to this program. What would the cost be on 900-1200 banners? And where would we begin to hang them all?
The most common suggestion is to bring back the judges or even to just randomly pick the winners – and yet this brings us full circle to the lack of transparency and doesn’t allow for the community to be involved. This program is supposed to bring positive marketing for the community, whether it be radio stations or newspapers talking about the program, it is supposed to create a positive buzz for this community and encourage people to come and see what all the talk is about – maybe even go shopping at our local toy store or dine at a local restaurant while they are here checking out the banners.
Each year, we try our best to be open and transparent with this contest and each year I find it more and more difficult to continue based, not on the children, but on the behaviour of the adults. Something that was supposed to be fun and creative for the kids in this community, something that no other community or area of the city does, has been tainted by adults.
With this, I am sad to say, we will no longer be hosting the Festival of Banners. I would like to thank the schools for helping the artists to explore their creativity, the families that picked up their child’s supplies and helped them paint the large banners to hang, to my staff, who fielded calls and messages, who scanned and uploaded, who poured paint and traced banners. And a very special thank you to the children that created such amazing pieces of work – it was great to see through your eyes for just a moment.
Leila Dance, Executive Director