The spirit of the voyageur endures at Festival du Voyageur, the largest winter festival in Western Canada. If you haven’t had the chance to join into the fun – good news – this Francophone festival is feelin’ the joie de vivre for another week! Here are 8 ways to tap into your inner voyageur at this year’s festival…
Dress the part
What does a voyageur wear? While the traditional garb can be seen on interpreters throughout Voyageur Park, most visitors opt for a combination of a few key elements. Adorn your waist with a ceinture fléchée, pop a red toque on your head and bundle up in plaid flannel. Once you’re in character, head to the Global News Green Screen photo booth to be placed in a virtual voyageur setting. Say Hé Ho for the camera!
Roll maple taffy
Don’t worry – we still have enough snow left for the voyageur’s favourite sugar treat: maple taffy. Enter the Cabane à Sucre to take your turn rolling taffy onto a stick and enjoying the sticky, sugary goodness that follows.
Take a shot of Caribou
It might shock you to know that the origins of Caribou go back to hunters and trappers who drank caribou blood mixed with alcohol as a way to deal with cold weather. Rest assure that at Festival du Voyageur, there is not a single drop of blood in the Caribou, which you can purchase in an ice glass at the Snow Bar.
Join into Voyageur Games
The legendary Voyageur Games are back for another year, this time, hosted at the Marion Hotel. Games include leg wrestling, voyageur wrestling, pillow fights, tug of war and log sawing. A shuttle is conveniently available to and from the Marion Hotel on February 24 and 25.
Asides from the Jigging Contest (February 25 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm) and the Fiddling Contest (February 26, 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm) there are plenty of opportunities to dance at Festival du Voyageur, especially after loosening up a bit with the help of Caribou. Check the artist schedule prior to your visit to determine which tents should be your priority, and for best success, arrive early to ensure entry.
Take a step back in time
When it comes to the fur trade, the voyageurs owe much of their success to the Indigenous communities who inhabited the area around the Red River. The Indigenous Winter Training camp takes participants into a tipi for stories, legends and folklore that depict the diverse and complex culture of the first inhabitants of Red River. The session takes place on February 23 (6:00 pm to 9:00 pm), February 24 (5:00 pm to 9:00 pm), February 25 (10:00 am to 9:00 pm) and February 26 (10:00 am to 5:00 pm).
Master the art of the voyageur
Train as an apprentice through a series of workshops and demonstrations that showcase the arts practiced by the voyageurs of the past. Knowledgeable craftspeople will teach hands-on skills, with demonstrations happening in the first half of the day and workshops in the second. Learn about the stunning art of Métis beading, the highly technical skill of coopering and how to play the wooden spoons.
Eat a festival favourite
Hungry voyageurs who find themselves in Fort Gibraltar have a variety of yummy fare at their fingertips. Try classics like poutine, chili with bannock and tourtière , or just in case the maple taffy wasn’t enough, grab a popular BeaverTail for dessert. The seasonal restaurant Mon Ami Louis, located on the Esplanade Riel, reopens its doors for Festival, offering up a creative Trapper’s Menu consisting of items such as bison burgers, wild mushroom crêpes and maple tarte.