Festival du Voyageur goes virtual

Programming includes workshops and eight days of free online concerts

Festival du Voyageur has gone above and beyond to bring the in-person Festival experience online.

John Medina (supplied)

This year’s Festival du Voyageur may look a bit different. Instead of gathering under tents in Whittier Park, the festival can be experienced from the comfort of home. 

Running from Feb. 12 to 21, the festival’s programming includes eight days of free virtual concerts, dozens of online workshops and different partnerships aimed at bringing the spirit of Festival to the living room. 

“It’s the first Festival for many Manitobans that they’re not spending eight days in the park,” Lor Brand, the festival’s marketing and communications co-ordinator says. 

Brand lists a number ways to emulate the sensations of Festival du Voyageur at home. Before gearing up for festivities in a ceinture fléchée, one can pick up a traditional Franco-Manitoban meal kit from Promenade Café and Wine. To take it a step further, festival attendees can pre-order a Caribou cocktail served in a Festival-style ice glass from Patent 5 Distillery. 

And perhaps the most meticulous detail: Brand says the festival’s boutique will sell an essential oil mimicking the woodsy aroma found on the traditional festival grounds. 

“We really tried to mimic as much as possible what people see in the park,” Brand says. 

This year’s musical lineup brings a number of new and familiar performers, including Andrina Turenne, a musician with hometown roots in St. Boniface. Turenne attended the festival from a young age and says the annual event holds a special place in her heart as a Franco-Manitoban and Métis musician. 

“My dad was the general director for the first 10 years and founded what most of Festival is built on,” she says.  “I remember when I was a kid, Festival du Voyageur was, like, bigger than Christmas, bigger than any of the holidays. I just couldn’t wait.”

Turenne says her formative years as a young musician were heavily shaped and inspired by being exposed to the talent that the festival brought to the stage. Since her teenage years, she has performed in a number of different bands and formations. 

“I think it really contributed to me feeling like I had permission to dream about doing that,” Turenne says.

Aside from the musical acts that headline the festival, Brand says Festival du Voyageur also acts as an avenue to combine education and celebration. What makes the experience unique is its presentation of information on Franco-Manitoban and Métis cultures in a way that’s fun and inviting, Brand says. 

“When it’s framed in this way as a big celebration and a party, essentially, people are way more open to learning,” Brand says, “to create those bridges and celebrate at the same time. To me, that’s the importance of Festival du Voyageur.”

To learn more about Festival du Voyageur’s virtual programming, visit heho.ca/en/2021-virtual-programming.

Published in Volume 75, Number 17 of The Uniter (February 3, 2021)

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