By Eden Ramsay (@EdenRamsay)
With the number of amazing festivals Winnipeg has. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but Festival du Voyageur has got to be one of them. Manitoba’s Francophone’s have such a rich culture, it’s certainly festival-worthy.
There’s also something very romantic about the festival and its celebration of rustic Canadiana. People walk around brightly lit ice sculptures, some wearing sashes or furry hats. They may be huddled around a campfire, sharing stories, or playing a tune.
Here’s a handy dandy to-do list to get the most out of your Festival du Voyageur experience:
1. Visit Fort Gibraltar
It’s great to see how life was probably like in the days of the brave voyageurs. By stepping into each log cabin in the fort you will see a different aspect of voyageur life. Highlights include a working forge with blacksmith, a trading post, carpenters, and weavers. You can also climb the fort that surrounds this to get an even better view of the village and festival.
2. Take in the great live shows
There is a lot of great music at this event. Favourites of mine this year are Mariachi Ghost, The Crooked Brothers, and The F-Holes. New for this year is an app you can download to help decide what shows to see and schedule yourself for. I’d also recommend reading the descriptions for acts and checking out their music online before deciding who to see. Another option is going to the festival and spontaneously falling in love with a band you’ve never heard of before.
3. Eat Francophone food
There’s plenty to choose from when it comes to food at Festival du Voyageur. You will find different food in different tents along with food trucks outside. Many people choose to go with poutine, which will not disappoint. In one of the tents, Café Promenade was serving up some delicious food and I ordered the pulled pork sandwich combo. I highly recommend it.
4. Drink Caribou in an ice shot glass
Caribou is a Québécois beverage that includes red wine, whisky, and maple syrup or refined sugar and is served up at Festival du Voyageur. For a couple more dollars you can get it in an ice shot glass. You can even order it outside from the Liquor Mart Snow Bar and around a campfire. Caribou may also be enjoyed while watching the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics from TV screens set up this year in many of the tents.
5. Walk around outside, take in the sculptures, and even go on a horse-drawn wagon ride
There are always amazing snow sculptures to see at the festival and there is often just as much going on outside as there is inside during this festival. This year I saw a group of musicians playing the classic voyageur tune, Log Driver’s Waltz, around the outside campfire to an enthusiastic crowd. There’s also opportunity for snow shoeing nearby. And you never know, a relaxed, horse-drawn wagon ride might be just what the doctor ordered.
6. Make some new friends
Festivals are a great time for people-watching, but also for meeting new people. It can be pretty easy chatting up strangers while waiting in a lineup outside in the cold to get into a music tent. This week, I chatted up some local Frenchmen, shared a bucket of mini doughnuts, and debated the topic of bannock. While listening to The Proud Sons, I met a nice couple from Minnesota who decided to spend their vacation time at the Festival instead of going to some tropical destination like many of their friends were.
Editor’s note: Festival du Voyageur wraps up on Sunday. Visit HeHo.ca for a list of activities before the fun comes to an end for another year.
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Eden Ramsay is a Creative Communications student at Red River College. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) from the University of Manitoba and majored in graphic design. She loves culture, design in its many forms, and exploring the world around her.