Festival du Voyageur

Festival du Voyageur
Photo: festivalvoyageur.mb.ca
Festival du Voyageur is the largest winter festival in Western Canada. It is a ten-day event held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The festival takes place in the city’s French quarter, Saint Boniface, and is dedicated to Canada’s unique French heritage and fur-trading past.

In 1967, the Saint Boniface Chamber of Commerce approached the City of Saint Boniface with the concept of a winter festival celebrating the Francophone heritage of Manitoba. Unfortunately, there was not enough financing and the festival was postponed. After gaining the support of 18 community organizations, the organizers approached the city once more and this time their plan was approved.

George Forest was responsible for promoting the event. He decided to use the image of the voyageurs, French Canadians who transported furs by canoe during the fur trade years. Voyageurs used to be romanticized in Canada just like cowboys in the United States.

The first Festival du Voyageur took place February 26 to March 1, 1970 at Provencher Park, attracting about 50,000 attendees. The event wash held within the context of the official celebrating of Manitoba’s centenary. George Forest wore clothing based on the image of the voyageurs and thus started the tradition of “Official Voyageurs”. The program of the four-day festival included the walk own Provencher Boulevard, the Voyageur Trading Post and the Governor’s Ball.

Unfortunately, the inaugural festival turned out unprofitable because of the unexpectedly large number of visitors that caused a high level of expenditure. When the festival was over, the organizers had a large debt on their hands and even a fundraiser didn’t help to remedy their financial situation. Luckily, grants provided by the Secretary of State and the City of Winnipeg helped to pay off the debts and the festival eventually became profitable.

The city of Saint Boniface was amalgamated into Winnipeg in 1971 so Festival du Voyageur formally takes place in Winnipeg. The event is held in Whittier Park where wooden log cabins were constructed to accommodate the festival in 1977. These cabins became the foundation of the historic reconstruction of Fort Gibraltar, a 19th-century fort build by the North West Company at the confluence of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers.

The program of Festival du Voyageur is full of entertaining events and activities for visitors of all ages. They include an arts and crafts market, concerts, fairground rides, contests and competitions (including the famous snow sculpture contest), firework displays, a special school program with workshops and activities, exhibitions, and more. The main goal of the festival is to raise public awareness about the vitality of the French language and culture in Manitoba through an assortment of events and activities inspired by the voyageur era in Canada.

Festival du Voyageur

Photo: festivalvoyageur.mb.ca



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