Festival du Voyageur
The Festival du Voyageur (literally translated as Festival of the Traveller) is an annual 10-day winter festival that takes place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The event is held during each February in Winnipeg's French Quarter, Saint-Boniface, and is Western Canada's largest winter festival. It celebrates Canada's fur-trading past and unique French heritage and culture through entertainment, arts and crafts, music, exhibits, and displays.
"Voyageur" refers to those who worked for a fur trading company and usually traveled by canoe. The idea for the festival was first proposed in 1967, in celebration of Canada's centennial. However, due to lack of funding from city council, the proposal was not acted upon. In the summer of 1969, the mayor, Ed Turner, and the city council of Saint-Boniface granted their support under the condition that Festival became an incorporated organization. Judge Robert Trudel became the first president of Festival du/of the Voyageur. Festival du/of the Voyageur Inc. was incorporated under the Companies Act of Manitoba on December 18, 1969. It received a city grant of $35,000 but had to give back all profits up to $35,000.
At a press conference held January 13, 1970, Mayor Turner announced that the city of Saint-Boniface would present a festival honouring the Voyageur of the fur trading era, in celebration of Manitoba's centennial. The first Festival du/of the Voyageur took place February 26 to March 1, 1970, at Provencher Park, with an estimated attendance of 50,000 people. The large number of attendees required an unforeseen level of expenditure by festival organizers; by the festival's conclusion, the organization had a debt in excess of C$40,000. To remedy their financial situation, the organizers held horse races as a fundraiser in conjunction with the 1971 festival. The 1971 festival was a success, drawing nearly 200,000 guests. However, instead of resolving the financial situation, the fundraiser pushed the organization further into debt.
Grants from the city of Winnipeg and the Secretary of State allowed the Festival to make arrangements with their creditors. The name was changed to "Festival du Voyageur" (the "of the" was dropped). For the 1972 festival, Arthur D'Eschambault was elected president. He hired a number of financial and management directors (most of whom were anglophone). The festival ran from February 21 to 27, and the profits amounted to C$108.46.
Over the years, more additions were made to Festival. The symbol of a red toque and a pair of boots was adopted in 1973, after a winning snow sculpture from the year before. Two "school" voyageurs were appointed in 1977, to visit schools and teach children about the voyageurs and Festival.
In 1978, the organization had accumulated enough surplus funds to make Whittier Park the permanent site of the festival. Provencher Park had become too small for the growing number of attendees. Log cabins were constructed in Whittier Park that could be left there year-round. These cabins formed the foundation of the historic reconstruction that became known as Fort Gibraltar.
The typical annual attendance is 100,000 people across all ten days of the festival.
- "Festival du Voyageur draws big crowds". CBC News. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2013.