Vesna owes much of its birth to the social climate of the early 1970s. In response to demonstrations opposing the notion of biculturalism, Prime Minister Trudeau announced Canada’s Multiculturalism, ethnic groups attained a sense of validation in the ‘New Canada.’ Multiculturalism was a very significant movement for Canada’s Ukrainians. It swerved to reverse repressive second language laws allowing for instruction in schools; today our children are able to attend the Bishop Filevech Ukrainian Bilingual School. Saskatchewan was the first province to implement multiculturalism which served as a catalyst for cultural celebrations, such as Vesna, promoting, sharing and preserving and engendering pride in Ukrainian culture for today’s and future generations.
Prior to Vesna Festival, maintaining Ukrainian culture remained centred around local churches and halls. Dance and youth groups served to preserve important aspects of the culture, while church services used Ukrainian language almost exclusively. During the new and exciting time of multiculturalism, individuals from the Ukrainian community wished to share their colourful culture. Al Kachkowski, who at the time worked at the Mohyla institute, prompted fellow Ukrainian and good friend Yurko Foty to use his influence at the University of Saskatchewan to promote Ukrainian culture. Yurko’s idea was to create a festival based on a Ukrainian wedding theme showcasing Ukrainian traditions and culture. Yurko and Al, along with friends and family, further developed the idea into a festival theme, where history and culture could be presented in a party atmosphere - Vesna was born!
Through the Ukrainian community, Al and Yurko recruited volunteers and invited people to become involved with the festival: Zenon Pohoresky created the original logo, Linda Lazarowich former director of the Ukrainian Museum, and Judy-Anne Chabun were some of the people who helped bring the first Vesna to life. This spirit of volunteerism is what makes Vesna successful today.
The first Vesna was held on May 31, 1974 at the Centennial Auditorium, now known as TCU Place. The newly implemented multiculturalism legislation allowed Vesna Festival to obtain federal and provincial funding. In addition to government funding, Vesna was sponsored by the Ukrainian Self-Reliance League, and i later years also by Saskatoon’s Ukrainian Professional and Business Club. In the years following the first Vesna, the festival formed its own Board of Directors and is now a non-profit organization and registered charity.
Over the past 40 years, the mission of Vesna has remained constant; to provide a top-quality event displaying Ukrainian entertainment and culture as an integral part of the Saskatchewan community. Vesna Festival is and always has been a family affair; a third generation is now involved and performing at Vesna. Following the success of the first Vesna, organizers had greater plans and visions. Past Board members plus countless volunteers have shaped Vesna Festival to the wonderful celebration it is today.