On a frosty cold Friday night, with a beautiful full moon overhead, true voyageurs and explorers of Winnipeg braved the weather to come together and begin their journey from The Forks to Voyageur Park on a torch light walk and opening celebration for this year’s historic Festival Du Voyageur.
The Festival du Voyageur’s story has been woven in time becoming an important part of Winnipeg, attracting people from all over the world to celebrate its historic meaning and events.
Many activities are held in tents where you can listen to music, sharing food and drinks with family and friends, meeting new friends along the way. Artists and performers will be at various tents entertaining you with all varieties of music for children and adults. The Souvenir Tent has products for all of your Festival du Voyageur needs.
There is a revamped winter playground for the children to enjoy, sleigh rides, an Ice Bar, other outdoor patios, a trading post on the river trail at The Forks and much more. You can even explore the snowshoe trail through Voyageur Park.
Of course, the Festival would not be complete without the snow sculptures that are carefully constructed by people from across Winnipeg and from around the world.. Martin Dasek and Franziska Agrawal from Munich, Germany, are in Canada for the first time, creating a geometrical structure containing two layers of squares levitating on each other. They explained that when playing with a material the weight of snow, it’s a balancing act that depends on temperature and weather.
Yvon Deschambault, who is part of the Alpine Club of Canada and Club Escaladae St. Boniface, helped prepare for the competition at the Ice Climbing Tower, which was held from 11 am to 4 pm on Saturday, Febraury 15th. There is a tent for the participants offering food, hot chocolate and coffee, and a heated trailer to help ease the pain of the cold.
There are also activities at Fort Gibraltar including a Voyageur Workshop for which one can sign up. As well, there are juggling acts and fire performers near the bonfire at the Voyageur canoe stationed at the entrance to Fort Gibraltar. One of two fire performers on February 14th, Issac Girardin juggled fire while riding on a unicycle. He is also an integral part of C.A.M.P., offering workshops in circus arts to at-risk inner city children.
Visitors are invited to be at the Festival on Louis Riel Day (Family Day), February 17th, to celebrate Manitoba’s founding father and create the largest “living” Metis Flag ever. Organizers suggest participants wear blue or white to Voyageur Park and meet at Fort Gibraltar’s South Tower.
There is an Aboriginal Winter Trading Camp where one can walk inside a tipi and learn the complex culture, legends, stories and folklore of the first inhabitants of the Red River.
Cabaret du Fort Rouge offers New France ambiance and music where soldiers and voyageurs take visitors back in time to when the Northwest’s first explorers came here. The Voyageur Trading Post at 340 Provencher Blvd offers plenty of fun activities, including the beard growing contest, the jigging an fiddling contest, Cajun Night and DJ Night as well as community lunches.
Other venues offering entertainment include, L’Auberge du Violon; voyageur games and wrestling at Club St-B; a pancake breakfast and dinner and a show at the Pionniers Trading Post; great food and dancing at Le Garage; Finn’s Pub at The Forks; The Wood; Chez Sophie; Club Regent Casino; and Rendez-vous on Ice at the Red River Trail at The Forks where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet, offering delicious French-Canandian food, an outdoor bar and a fashion-on-ice show.
Hotel Fort Garry, Festival du Voyageur’s official hotel presents the prestigious event, Le Bal du Governor along with daily special lunches and dinners in the Palm Room.
Anyone taking in the festivities is advised to dress warmly with toques, hats, warm mitts and boots, and of course a really warm jacket. Many patrons take the opportunity to dress in their favourite voyageur outfit and sash, helping to recreate the atmosphere of the Voyageurs. One volunteer, Kate Durand, showed off her skunk hat.
There are activities for all to enjoy from Febraury 14 to February 23. There will be Closing Ceremonies at the MTS Riviere Rouge Tent at 5pm on the 23rd.
For those who are bussing it, there is a free shuttle service from the Forks to Voyageur Park.
Festival organizers send out a huge thanks to all the volunteers and supporting organizations who are coordinating all the events in conjunction with Festival du Voyageur this year. Once again, Winnipeg shows its amazing way of getting together to create a community for all to enjoy.
All photos by Marie LeBlanc