One could think that organizing an outdoor festival in the middle of a Manitoban winter is a challenge and drawing a crowd is one as well. But no, not in Winnipeg! The Festival du Voyageur takes place every year in February (2020 is its 51st edition) and for ten days the entire neighbourhood of Saint-Boniface moves to the rhythm of ”Hé Ho!” cheered by festival-goers.
The Festival du Voyageur During the Day
By day, the Festival du Voyageur offers a variety of activities adapted for all ages and interests.
The Sculpture Symposium
I visited the Festival on its second day so the ice sculptures weren’t completely finished yet. This year, there are seven participants from Manitoba of course, but also from Saskatchewan, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Péguis First Nation and Argentina.
The artists were at work despite glacial temperatures that day and I have to admit that I have a preference for the ice castle that seems to have come straight from the animated movie Frozen!
Fort Gibraltar is the reconstruction of a North-West Company trading post where furs were exchanged between Indigenous people and Voyageurs in 1815. Close to two centuries later, passionate costumed interpreters revive that era.
Among other facts, note that Voyageurs had an estimated lifespan of 38-39 years and their ration of choice was pemmican. But I won’t go into much detail, because I’ll talk to you again about Fort Gibraltar later in the year!
Winter doesn’t scare Manitobans, and there are three ways to warm up at the Festival du Voyageur:
Inside the Festival du Voyageur’s four tents, one can find something to eat, activities and concerts. I got to hear a number of artists from all over the world: Manitoba of course, but also from Acadia and Senegal. Beauséjour is pictured below.
It’s possible at the Festival du Voyageur to learn about Indigenous and Métis cultures, notably with the Pow Wow that takes place every weekend day at noon, but also through workshops and gastronomic meals.
The Festival also offers a plethora of activities for kids: slides, sleigh rides, snowshoe hikes, storytimes…
And finally, there are all kinds of good things to eat at the Festival du Voyageur, from maple taffy to beaver tails for the sweet-tooths, poutine to tourtière for those who prefer something savoury, and I’m forgetting some!
The Festival du Voyageur at Night
The change in ambiance is complete once night falls. The whole park is illuminated and the ambiance beats to the rhythm of concerts until midnight.
A Festival-Goer’s Starter Pack
To have a great Festival du Voyageur, you’ll need a ceinture fléchée, warm clothes, the Festival app on your phone and I’d also recommend listening to the Festival playlist ahead of time, unless you really like surprises!
Will you be there next year?
The Festival du Voyageur will take place from the 12th to 21st of February 2021!