Cultures & Cuisines: Exploring Carrousel of the Nations
Your How-To Guide to one of Windsor’s Most Beloved Festivals
Original Blog Post Written June 2022
NOTE: Carrousel of the Nations 2023 will take place June 16-18 and June 23-25, 2023. Visit carrouselofnations.com for updated event info!
As any Windsorite will tell you, Carrousel of the Nations holds a special place in our collective hearts. Not only is it the area’s longest running festival, it is the only ethnic and multicultural festival in the region; exposing residents and visitors to a wide array of global cultures and traditions they may otherwise never experience.
The award-winning festival takes place each June and celebrates the many nationalities that make up our vibrant community; showcasing a world of traditional dances, music, history, and of course, cuisine.
Carrousel evokes many fond childhood memories for me. It’s a festival I never miss and while I definitely have my favourite stops along the route, I’m always eager to discover new villages…and new foods.
This year, I was lucky enough to explore six different villages across the city; ending the day with a full heart and full belly. Want to discover the world without leaving your own backyard? Here are just a few of the cultural gems on display in our region, plus great tips to help you Carrousel like a pro!
The Mexican Village is located at WindsorEats on Erie Street. It is a new addition to the Carrousel line-up and judging by the crowd size, I’d say it’s fast becoming one of the most popular. Tacos, margaritas, and Latin music; how could it not be?
The village’s menu features a variety of tacos, street corn, and churros by Rico Taco, as well as traditional pambazo sandwiches and bandarillas by chefs Rob Nesbitt and Robbie Bornais. All I have to say is WOW. We were blown away by the food and could not stop talking about it all day. I overheard one lady mention that she grew up in Mexico City and the pambazo reminded her of home. What an absolutely heartwarming sentiment that truly captures what Carrousel is all about.
There were also performances by the Farm Band Music Association; a Leamington musical group formed by the migrant farm workers who travel to our region each spring. The vibe at this carrousel was just incredible; a true fiesta!
CARROUSEL PRO TIP: Divide and conquer is the name of the game here. If you’re carrousel-ing with a group, I recommend sending one friend to the food line, one to the drink line, and one to hold a table. Also, order two of everything. Trust me, you’ll want seconds.
This was the first time I was able to visit the Hungarian village and, it will definitely be one of my first stops next year. Hungarian hospitality is alive and well in our city at the Hungarian Cultural Centre on Hanna Street East and I could have stayed there all day enjoying the sights and sounds of an absolutely wonderful culture.
We arrived just in time to take in some traditional folk ensemble dances as we feasted on an epic spread of classic Hungarian fare including goulash, cabbage rolls, schnitzel, and smoked pork hock. This was comfort food at its finest; hearty dishes that remind you of your grandmother’s cooking.
I think I devoured about three cabbage rolls before I remembered that I had to save room for dessert. And oh boy was there plenty to choose from; a huge variety of traditional pastries and the CHIMNEY CAKES. Fluffy and sweet and roughly the size of your head, they were made for sharing; but you probably won’t want to.
CARROUSEL PRO TIP: Come hungry (or should I say, Hungary?) No, seriously; it’s best to arrive on an empty stomach. Also, follow the smell of cinnamon and sugar and take a walk outside to watch the volunteers make chimney cakes; a fun experience for the whole family.
Upon our arrival at the African village at the NCCEEP Centre on Walker Road, we were greeted by a live drum performance which had the crowd on their feet dancing. Music is such a huge part of the many diverse African countries highlighted at this carrousel and you could tell how much they enjoyed sharing their vibrant culture with everyone in attendance.
In between performances, we got to explore the gorgeous artwork, clothing, and crafts on display, as well as scope out the mouth-watering menu of traditional African dishes including chicken and beef suya, dodo (fried plantain), fish, egusi soup, and more.
My personal favourite was the jollof rice; a West African staple made with long grain rice, tomatoes, onions, and spices. It was so flavourful (and definitely had some kick too!)
CARROUSEL PRO TIP: With all the dancing you’ll be doing, you’ll definitely work up an appetite. Order each dish to share with your friends, but remember to save room for dessert. I have three words for you: puff puff sundae.
Serbian Gracanica Village
The Serbian Gracanica village is held at the Serbian Centre on Tecumseh Road East and is one of my favourite stops each year. It’s definitely a favourite among many other Windsorites as well because this place is always packed and buzzing with energy. Everyone is so warm and welcoming and genuinely having a great time celebrating their culture.
Of course, if you’ve had a chance to enjoy all the traditional Serbian food, you know why this village is so popular. Despite already being very full from our previous stops, we just had to make room for the cvapi, burek, raznjici (pork kabobs), and sarma (cabbage rolls.) The potato salad was so good I helped myself to seconds…and thirds.
We were also thrilled to watch some lively Serbian folk dances as we finished our meal with some coffee and traditional pastries and cookies (this should really be called Carrousel of the Desserts because every village is bringing their A-game with these sweets!)
CARROUSEL PRO TIP: This is a great village for the entire family to enjoy, with plenty of kid-friendly activities like face painting, a bouncy castle, and even bocce ball for the grownups!
Our next stop of the day was the Scottish village; a long-standing carrousel destination located at the Scottish Club of Windsor on Tecumseh Road. The hall was filled with tartan-clad revelers enjoying lively Scottish music, a pint of their favourite beer, as well as fish and chips and other traditional fare.
We sampled a little of everything; the crispy fish and chips, the bridie (meat pie) and of course, dessert. The Scottish are known for their shortbread for a reason; the melt-in-your-mouth buttery morsels are the perfect ending to any meal…no matter how full you are!
Before we left we were treated to a beautiful dance routine by the Emerald Isle Irish dancers. This group of young performers was so talented and I’m still in awe of how fast their feet were moving.
CARROUSEL PRO TIP: Make sure you’re there for the pipe band performances; the sound of live bagpipes is such an incredibly moving experience.
Our final stop of the day was the always dynamic Bavarian village, located at the Heimat Banquet Centre on Drouillard Road. The Heimat biergarten is arguably one of the best patios in the city; add to that some traditional Bavarian music, cold German beer, and some bratwurst and you’ve got yourself a good time.
The sound of accordions filled the air, and so did the smell of all the amazing German dishes they were cooking up in the kitchen. We were excited to try a little of everything: pork schnitzel, warm German potato salad, and obazda; a Bavarian cheese ball served with pretzels for dipping. I LOVED the breaded sauerkraut balls too; a must-try.
We finished off our evening unwinding in the biergarten enjoying the atmosphere and the live music. It felt like we were sitting on a patio in the middle of Munich!
CARROUSEL PRO TIP: This carrousel is traditionally one of the busiest, so if you want to snag yourself a spot in the biergarten, it’s a good idea to arrive early. Also, if you’re a beer enthusiast, I highly recommend a pint of the German grapefruit beer they have on tap. Prost!
To get another first hand account of Carrousel of the Nations head over to Scenes From Dinner: Carrousel of Nations and start planning your Carrousel weekends!