Event showcases talent of musicians, dancers and other artists who live and work on Winnipeg’s Main Street

Dozens of people gathered outside what was once an infamous Main Street hotel Saturday to celebrate the artistic talent that is sometimes hidden in Winnipeg’s core.

Red Road Lodge, a recovery facility inside the former Occidental Hotel, hosted the Main Street’s Got Talent event on Saturday to showcase the musicians, dancers, comedians and artists who live, work and spend their leisure time in the area.

The purpose of the talent show, organizer Richard Walls said, was to show the diamonds in the rough.

“Anybody from the suburbs has a different perception of Main Street. They sort of see it as maybe an unsafe place — a lot of places where there’s homeless people, many of them are suffering with trauma, and as a result they’ve got some substance abuse issues,” said Walls, the CEO of Red Road Lodge.

“Underneath that layer, they’re human beings, and a lot of them are very talented. The idea was … let’s show people what Main Street people are really like.”

That included the Harris siblings, who grew up just down the street from Red Road Lodge and spent their early days dancing traditional Métis jigs in and around the area.

They later became professional, award-winning dancers and formed the Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers.

The three siblings, who have collectively held youth championship jigging titles for 13 years running, say they want to prove that Winnipeg is bursting with talent.

People dance as Colton McLeod plays the fiddle at Main Street’s Got Talent on Saturday. (Rachel Bergen/CBC)

“This part of the city is avoided quite a bit, but there’s a lot of talent here in Winnipeg,” said Mikey Harris.

“Just don’t read a book by its cover…. It’s actually looked over a lot. So we just got to let them know we’re here.”

The dancers’ eight-year-old sister, Savannah Sinclair, also started jigging almost four years ago. She hopes to one day be a world champion like her older siblings.

“I really like dancing,” she said.

Aside from dancing with her siblings, Cieanna Harris appreciated seeing the people in attendance get up and join in the dancing.

Colton McLeod, 11, drove down to Winnipeg from Camperville — a more than 400-kilometre trip — to play his violin and mandolin on Saturday.

“All these fiddle tunes are for you beautiful ladies,” he told the crowd as he took the stage, before asking them to applaud his family for making the long trip so he could perform.

McLeod says he likes playing the mandolin as well, especially the Steve Earle song Copperhead Road.

Colton McLeod, 11, played fiddle and mandolin at Main Street’s Got Talent on Saturday. (Rachel Bergen/CBC)

“It’s kind of like guitar, and it’s kind of like fiddle. It’s like both. I already know my violin, and it sounds like a fiddle. So I decided I want to play it.”

The Harris siblings had a word of advice for up-and-coming musicians like McLeod.

“I would say be patient, but also … stay hungry and humble, because it took a long time for us to get to where we are,” said Mikey.

“It takes a lot of hard work. If you really believe that you can make it … [home] in on it and just go with it.”