Gimli was settled first by Canadian Icelanders and later by Icelandic immigrants. The region, which became known as New Iceland, has preserved Icelandic culture and language within Canada, and since 1874 Gimli has celebrated this heritage with the Icelandic Festival, which hosts several thousand tourists for three days each year during August long weekend. This showcases artworks in downtown Gimli, from jewellery to paintings, and also traditional Icelandic dishes. One of the most talented local painters is Charlie McPherson, whose work, which often depicts the local landscape, has been displayed at the art museum as well along the pier wall which extends from downtown Gimli into the lake.
Gimli also holds a five-day summer film festival, during which films are shown on a screen in the lake to audiences on the beach.
Gimli is also a tourist destination for its 42 miles of lakeshore; it is a popular fishing destination in summer.
In 1983, the city's Gimli Industrial Park Airport became famous when an Air Canada Boeing 767 ran out of fuel over southern Manitoba and successfully glided to a landing at Gimli Motorsport Park. The aircraft in that incident became known as the Gimli Glider.
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