Ten days of partying starts this Friday at Festival du Voyageur
Let me tell you something about Festival du Voyageur (FDV).
First off, it’s an OG when it comes to winter festivals – and by OG we mean occasion gangante, because everyone is a winner at FDV and they’ve been hého-ing long before Naughty by Nature was down with O.P.P. (from 1970 onward, to be specific).
Second(e), it’s also the biggest and best damn winter festival in all of Western Canada, with 10-days of gaieté d'hiver that no one can resist.
Third, it’s a celebration of Winnipeg’s Francophone culture and language, and it promotes the history of the voyageur era in the funniest ways possible.
It all starts this Friday, February 17 and runs until the 26th.
So on that note, here are just a couple reasons why you should be coming to Winnipeg for it.
The Festival itself is an epicurean’s dream; it’s a place where the pea soup, maple syrup, and Caribou (the drink, not the animal) flow like the Red River in the summertime.
Inside Fort Gibraltar approximately 200 tourtière, over 100 smoked turkey legs and almost 500 litres of pea soup will be slung by the Fort Gibraltar Dining Company alone, while food trucks will be dishing out items like Beaver Tails and there will be poutine as far as the eye can see in the many tents (particularly from local restaurant La Garage, whose poutine is parfait).
Maple Taffy is a great way to make friends (photo by Dan Harper)
Taking the kids to the Cabane à Sucre (Sugar Shack) is of course a must, as that’s where the good citizens of St-Pierre-Jolys will be pouring maple syrup over snow (that’s how you make maple taffy) while also serving up other delectable fare like crêpes, tourtière and sugar pies.
Outside of the festival grounds you can also take part in MMM Festival (from February 10th to 27th) where special menus at special prices are available at some of St. Boniface’s best restaurants.
And finally, all you pea soup fans won’t want to miss the Rendez-vous des chefs, one of FDV’s last events (Sunday, February 26 at 1:30 p.m.). This pea soup contest sees some of Winnipeg’s best restaurants competing for the coveted titles of People’s and Judges’ Choice.
Perhaps our favourite part of FDV is seeing kids take over the hay-covered dance floors during day performances. It’s a bit of parenting 101 really, as these cute kids are most likely running on a combined fuel of maple taffy and sugar pie, which means they will party hard then fall asleep shortly after in their ski pants.
On top of that, there are tons of family friendly activities occurring throughout the festival -- from the toboggan slide, to snowshoeing, to kids entertainers on stage throughout the day in various tents.
There's always something to do with the whole family during Festival du Voyageur (photo by Dan Harper)
And of course, an FDV must is going to meet the historical inhabitants inside Fort Gibraltar, who are still living the life of the fur trade era, circa 1820. Your kids can meet the local blacksmith who is hammering out tools of the trade, along with the Fort’s other cheeky characters who will regale them with tales of working the trap lines.
2017 marks FDV’s 35th Beard Growing Contest, which means there will be all manner of muttonchops, moustaches, and chin pelts on display. You can witness all this manly glory on opening night, Friday, February 17 at Voyageur Park in the Université de Saint-Boniface Portage Tent, as contestants compete in categories including: Novelty, Open Category (women can also compete with fabricated facial hair), and Voyageur (a naturally grown beard, with no chemicals for grooming, just like it was in the 19th century on the Prairies, back when a beard really meant something. Take that, ya hipsters!).
As you can see in outposts across the city, snow sculptures are a big part of FDV. Many of the giant snow sculptures you’ll see have been carved by notable local and international carvers and the creations they come up with are nothing short of awe-inspiring.
The snow sculptures are absolutely massive (photo by Dan Harper)
New to this year's sculptures is the medium of wood. A big draw promises to be the Wood Carving Challenge (presented in partnership with the Winnipeg River Chainsaw Carving Association), where competitors will be revving up their saws and cutting away right in front of the crowds. The competition will see six internationally renowned teams – including guys from HGTV’s Carver Kings and OLN’s Sawdogs, while the completed sculptures will be sold during both an online and live auction. You can find the full schedule and contestant bios here.
At any give time during FDV you can catch at least one of five acts playing in their respective tents (there are six main performance tents), along with at least six venues/bars/restaurants outside of Fort Gibraltar where bands and singer-songwriters will be playing nightly. So pretty much, if you like live music, FDV has you covered for 10 days in a row. We’d start to list all the amazing artists you’ll see, but it’s probably best you just check out the full list of performers here.
Find some of your favourite new performers playing day and night inside the tents (photo by Dan Harper)
What else is there? Right, how about a fashion show and breakfast on ice at The Forks; Voyageur Games (like leg wrestling) at the Marion Hotel; markets throughout Voyageur Park; a singles night; a Cajun night (put on by the US Consulate General at that); karaoke; and the opening night Torch Light Walk from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to Fort Gibraltar, which is then followed by fireworks and much merriment as the festival kicks off.
Seriously, there are so many events that to list them all would take pages, so you best check out the full schedule here.
Tickets are just $34 for an adult 10-day pass or $13 for a 10-day youth pass (ages 5-17), while day passes are only $20 (adult) and $10 (youth). You can also purchase family passes, swag, and more here.