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Festival du Voyageur

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Festival du Voyageur
GenreWinter festival
Date(s)February 16-25, 2024
VenueVoyageur Park
Location(s)Whittier Park, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Years active55
Attendance76,000 (2023)
Budget$4.1m (2023)

The Festival du Voyageur is an annual 10-day winter festival that takes place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The event is held 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.

The word "Voyageur" refers to those who worked for a fur-trading company and usually travelled by canoe. In the case of Festival du Voyageur, the title of "Official Voyageur" is given to ambassadors of the festival.[1]


Snow sculpture at Festival du Voyageur, with the Fort Gibraltar in the background.
Snow sculpture at Festival du Voyageur, with the Fort Gibraltar in the background.
Snow sculpture from Festival 2013
Ice sculpture for Red River College in the Exchange District from Festival 2014

The idea for a winter festival to celebrate Manitoba's Francophonie was first proposed in 1967 by Georges Forest, who became the first official "Voyageur".[1][2] The proposal was put forth to the then-City of St. Boniface, but the city's offer was insufficient.[3]

In the summer of 1969, mayor of St. Boniface Ed Turner, along with city council, granted their support under the condition that Festival became an incorporated organization. Judge Robert Trudel became the first president of Festival du Voyageur. Festival du 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.[citation needed]

At a press conference held on 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.[citation needed] The first Festival du Voyageur took place that year from February 26 to March 1, at Provencher Park, with an estimated attendance of 50,000 people.[3] Acting as an 'ambassador' for the event, Georges Forest promoted the event by wearing clothing that represented the Voyageurs. This initiated the tradition of "Official Voyageurs", which continues to this day.[1] The 1970 festival lasted four days and featured the walk down Provencher Boulevard, the Governor's Bal, and the Voyageur Trading Post.[3]

A large number of attendees required an unforeseen level of expenditure by festival organizers; by the festival's conclusion, the organization had debt in excess of $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.[citation needed]

The snow sculpture that won the 1971 event was of a pair of boots and a toque. This sculpture inspired the creation of a mascot, Léo La Tuque, who was introduced in 1972 and became the trademark of Festival du Voyageur.[3]

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 $108.46.

Two "school" voyageurs were appointed in 1977, to visit schools and teach children about the voyageurs and Festival.

In 1977, construction began on wooden log cabins in Whittier Park to accommodate the festival. The log cabins were constructed to be left there year-round. 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. These cabins formed the foundation of the historic reconstruction that became known as Fort Gibraltar.[3]

In 1981, the Festival du Voyageur purchased an empty warehouse, located at 768 Taché Avenue, for administrative offices and to be used for an additional venue. The building became known as the Rendez-Vous and eventually came to include a bar named Le Canot.[3]

From February to October 2001, a large house was constructed in Fort Gibraltar for the event. The house is called the Maison du Bourgeois.[3]

The Rendez-Vous building on Taché was put up for sale in 2003, and sold in 2006. New administrative offices were found in a building at 233 Provencher Avenue, and it came to also feature a store called the Boutique du voyageur.[3]

In 2005, a year-round interpretive centre was built in Fort Gibraltar.[3]

In 2011, The Festival was awarded the Award of Excellence – Promotion of Linguistic Duality by the Commissioner of Official Languages Graham Fraser for its contribution to the vitality of the Franco-Manitoban Community.[4]

In 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Festival du Voyageur offered virtual programming and broadcast its concert events over YouTube and Facebook.[5]


Year Attendance[6]
2023 76,000[7]
2022 16,470[8]
2021 Virtual only[9]
2020 73,675[10]
2019 96,000[11]
2018 93,400[12][13]
2017 94,000[14][15]
2016 102,000[16][17]
2015 91,000[18]
2014 100,000
2013 97,000
2012 95,000
2011 97,000

Current operation


In 2023, the festival saw 858 volunteers donate 9,573 hours of work.[7]

The festival employs 10 full-time permanent staff and employs approximately 200 temporary staff during the February event. In 2023, the festival's revenue was approximately $4.1m.[7]



As of 2023, organizations affiliated with the Festival du Voyageur include:[19]

See also



  1. ^ a b c "Official Voyageurs". Festival du Voyageur. August 29, 2016. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  2. ^ "Memorable Manitobans: Georges Forest (1924-1990)". www.mhs.mb.ca. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "History of Festival du Voyageur inc". FDV Inc. Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  4. ^ "Festival du Voyageur Receives Linguistic Duality Award | ChrisD.ca". ChrisD.ca. February 22, 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  5. ^ "2021 Virtual Programming". Festival du Voyageur. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  6. ^ "About Us - Festival du Voyageur". heho.ca. August 29, 2016. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  7. ^ a b c "Festival Du Voyageur 2022–2023 Annual Report" (PDF). Festival Du Voyageur Inc. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  8. ^ "Festival Du Voyageur 2021–2022 Annual Report" (PDF). Festival Du Voyageur Inc. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  9. ^ "Festival Du Voyageur 2020–2021 Annual Report" (PDF). Festival Du Voyageur Inc. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  10. ^ "Festival Du Voyageur 2019–2020 Annual Report" (PDF). Festival Du Voyageur Inc. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  11. ^ "Festival Du Voyageur 2018–2019 Annual Report" (PDF). Festival Du Voyageur Inc. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  12. ^ "You searched for festival du voyageur - ChrisD.ca". ChrisD.ca. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  13. ^ "Second coldest Festival means fewer daytime visit". CBC News. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  14. ^ "Festival du Voyageur Sees Dip in Attendance | ChrisD.ca". ChrisD.ca. February 27, 2017. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  15. ^ "Festival Du Voyageur 2016–2017 Annual Report" (PDF). Festival Du Voyageur Inc. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  16. ^ "Festival du Voyageur attendance up 13 per cent over last year". Global News. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  17. ^ "Festival Du Voyageur 2015–2016 Annual Report" (PDF). Festival Du Voyageur Inc. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  18. ^ "Festival Du Voyageur 2014–2015 Annual Report" (PDF). Festival Du Voyageur Inc. Retrieved January 8, 2024.
  19. ^ "Sponsors and Partners - Festival du Voyageur". heho.ca. February 24, 2022. Retrieved January 8, 2024.