by Dallas Reimer
(Beer Delegate, MB, Canada)
The Manitoba Social: almost any fund-raising occasion uses this method
The mysterious Manitoba Social explained
Visit the UNOB's Manitoba Beer Guide
Most Manitobans are surprised to learn that the Social is an event exclusive to their province. It has become entrenched in our minds as a part of life.
Your kids' baseball team needs new uniforms? Grab cold cuts and a one-night liquor license. Your friends bought a house? Borrow some card tables and rent a bingo hall. You’re getting married? Grab a few cases of cheap domestic and sell as many tickets as you can.
An upcoming wedding is the most common reason for having a Manitoba Social. The event is of Ukrainian roots: about a quarter of Manitoba's population has some Ukrainian heritage.
It is traditionally a party thrown by friends of the bride and groom to help cover the costs of the ceremony. A bingo hall or community centre is rented and tickets are sold, usually for ten dollars apiece, to friends, family members, acquaintances or pleasant strangers.
Inside the hall at a Manitoba Social, you will find small clusters of balloons taped to the wall, a bar integrated into the hall's kitchen, rows of card tables with chairs in the front half of the hall and a DJ booth flanked by raffle prizes along the rear. Your first destination, however, should be the ticket table by the front door.
The ticket table is your home base at a Manitoba Social. It is where you will find liquor and raffle tickets and will often be a stopping point for anyone you may be searching for. Because the liquor tickets purchased here are worthless anywhere else, most patrons will only buy two or three at a time, returning frequently throughout the night to replenish their supply.
This presents many opportunities to meet up with lost friends, lovers (current or potential) or the happy couple themselves. Also make sure to pick up some raffle tickets while you're there, or you will feel very left out later on.
Your second stop (and only because it can't be the first) should be the Manitoba Social's bar. Here you will find a slim assortment of hard liquor and beer. The hard liquor will be pre-poured into small plastic cups and set on the counter behind the volunteer bartender. Your choices will be Canadian whiskey and vodka. From there, you will be directed towards the self-serve bucket of ice with scoop and the fountain drink machine, where you will construct your beverage of choice.
Beer, our main focus, will be divided into three categories: domestic, light and import. More often than not, those choices will be Kokanee beer, Labatt Light and Miller Genuine Draft, respectively.
Kokanee, the representative "frat beer" of Canada, should be avoided, unless someone you know managed to smuggle a funnel through security. Labatt Light is mandatory if you are over thirty-five years old, suspect if you are under. Miller Genuine Draft, also known as simply MGD, will often be your only logical choice. Occasionally, you will find a premium beer choice at a Manitoba Social, such as Heineken or Guinness, but they are usually more expensive and therefore not worth mentioning.
For many, the pinnacle of the night will be the raffle draw. The raffle tickets you purchased earlier are to be separated at their perforations and one half dropped into each bag corresponding to your desired prizes. Around eleven o'clock, the draw will begin.
As each number is drawn, you will clutch your tickets and the room will be silent. If you did not buy any raffle tickets, this would be a good time to go get another beer. If you don't win, be civil and congratulate those who did. If you do win, don't feel the need to be gracious. Raise your arms and howl triumphantly for the duration of your victory march.
By now, having drank several MGDs and wowed the crowd with your latest dance moves, you will likely be famished. Thankfully, the tradition of the Manitoba Social and the laws of the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission require your hosts to feed you. Each platter brought out at midnight will include the makings of a great Canadian sandwich, including rye bread, salami, ham, pickle slices, cubed marble cheddar and a bottle of yellow mustard.
You may assemble your sandwich any way you like, or perhaps in an arrangement that is not a sandwich at all. You may very well be drunk enough at this point to create some exciting luncheon meat art.
At one o'clock in the morning, the lights will come on and the music will stop. This is the signal that you need to finish your beer and get out. Another signal you will notice is the couple's friends and family pushing brooms and picking up trash around you. Do not try to trade your remaining Manitoba Social tickets for beer. Accept your loss and go find a bar. You shouldn’t have bought so many anyway.