Heart installation along Winnipeg river trail memorializes Manitobans lost to COVID-19

It’s a display of love.

Hundreds of hearts are being planted in the snow along Winnipeg’s Assiniboine River trail, in memory of the Manitobans who have died of COVID-19.

As of Saturday, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus had killed 866 people in the province.

Volunteers with Communities Not Cuts, the group behind the art installation, placed the first 200 hearts on the ice near the Manitoba Legislature on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s Valentine’s Day, and we talk about February being the month when we think about our loved ones,” said Shawn Kettner, a member of the group.

“We thought that that would be a nice way to recognize all the community members we have lost.”

Kettner said the hearts, which were handmade by Manitobans after the group put a call out on social media, are a way for the community to grieve and show support.

Volunteers are planting 866 hearts on the Assiniboine river trail in honor of the Manitobans who have died of COVID-19. (Travis Golby/CBC)

“We talk about the virus and COVID and how it’s affecting us in so many ways, and we tend to forget … that these are real people,” she said.

“These are family members, moms and dads and grandparents and brothers and sisters. I think it’s important as a community we come together to mourn.”

The group is inviting Manitobans to make their own hearts to contribute to the installation.  

Kettner suggests that the hearts be at least the size of an open hand, and made with durable materials to withstand the elements. 

They also should be attached to a stick so they can be placed in the snow, she said.

So far, the hearts have been made from “everything from old place mats” to fabrics, said Kettner.

“Somebody arrived with an old badminton racket that they had weaved a heart into,” she said.

The installation will stay up until the spring and be removed before the ice melts.