This past weekend kicked off the 45th annual Festival du Voyageur, and after a week of near-blizzard conditions, the sun emerged just in time to kick off the festivities! Running until February 23 2014, the festival celebrates the history, spirit, culture and joie de vivre of the Franco-Manitoban community.
After suiting and booting up for a day outside, our adventure began with a tour of Fort Gibraltar, where we were taken through various log cabins to meet an array of historical voyageurs keen to teach us about their day-to-day activities in the early 1800s. A great family experience full of fun and education, we were given front-row seats to historical activities at the trading post, smithy and more.
Next was a visit to the Voyageur Apprentice Workshops, where we were given the opportunity to learn about the arts and crafts practiced by our ancestors. Artists and craftspeople were happy to share their knowledge and provide hands-on demonstrations of skills including sash-weaving, soap-making, woodworking and more! Take in one of the workshops next weekend on February 22 or 23, learn one of the skills for yourself, and take home a souvenir of something you made with your own two hands.
After a morning of exploration and education, we stopped at Maison du Bourgeois, Fort Gibraltar's on-site restaurant for a taste of the special Festival-inspired menu. Shawn Brandson, owner of the Fort Gibraltar Dining Corporation as well as Promenade Café and Wine was pleased to join us to talk about the carefully chosen dishes representative of the area's French community, the philosophy behind the choice of cuisine, and the local ingredients that comprised dishes such as traditional Tourtière (made of Manitoba beef and pork), specially brewed teas, and sugar pie—a slice of heaven itself.
Once the afternoon rolled around, we had the opportunity to tour the impressive collection of snow sculptures. From the moment you step into Voyageur Park, you're greeted by an immense, 18ft by 50ft creation, leading the way to the festival's International Snow Sculpting Symposium, a collection of eleven pieces of art made by teams of sculptors from across the globe. Not a competition, this event gives artists the chance to express themselves in a spirit of mutual support and cooperation (many nations combine efforts; this year's included a collaboration between Manitoba and the Netherlands!), creating art beginning with a simple 12ft by 12ft block of snow and resulting in pieces inspired by Festival du Voyageur, or guided by their own imaginations.
Stay tuned for part two of our Festival adventure later this week, where we'll highlight some favourite activities, local music, unique sensations for the tastebuds and more! Tickets are available online, as well as in person at Safeway, Voyageur Park, the Festival du Voyageur office (233 Provencher Blvd.), by telephone (204.233.ALLO), the centre cultural franco-manitobain (340 Provencher Blvd.) as well as the Club Regent Casino. This year, Festival is also offering a free shuttle service. What are you waiting for?
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