Friday, February 11, 2011


    The Festival du Voyageur ( Festival of the Traveller), is an annual 10 day winter festival which takes place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada during February.  "Voyageur" refers to those who worked for a fur trading company and usually travelled by canoe. 
   This event is held in Winnipeg's French Quarter, Saint-Boniface, and is Western Canada's largest winter festival.  The event celebrates Canada's fur trading past and her unique French heritage and culture through entertainment, arts and crafts, music, exhibits and displays.


   The idea for the festival was first proposed in 1967, in celebration of Canada's centennial.  However, due to a lack of sufficient funding from the 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 the 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 18th, 1969.  It received a city grant of $35,000 but had to give back all profits up to the $35,000.

   At a press conference held January 13th, 1970, Mayor Turner announced that the city of Saint-Boniface would present a festival honoring the Voyageur of the fur trading era, in celebration of Manitoba's centennial.  The first Festival du/of the Voyageur took place February 26th to March 1st 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 $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".  For the 1972 festival, Arthur D'schambault was elected president.  He hired a number of financial and management directors (most of whom were anglophone).  The festival ran from February 21st to 27th, and the profits amounted to $108.46.
   Over the years, more additions were made to the festival.  The symbol of a red toque (stocking cap) 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 the 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 foundations of the historic reconstruction that became as Fort Gibraltar.