Hé ho, let’s go!

Festival du Voyageur serves up great fun for Reading Week

The 43rd annual Festival du Voyageur is on now until Sunday, Feb. 26. Dan Harper
The 43rd annual Festival du Voyageur is on now until Sunday, Feb. 26. Dan Harper
Students from Nellie McClung Collegiate in Manitou, Man. participate in Festival activities earlier this week. Dylan Hewlett

The only hill this francophone festival has gone over is the toboggan hill.

The 43rd annual Festival du Voyageur program is bigger and better than ever, with this year seeing an emphasis on music.

This year’s lineup features 235 shows, with over 300 hours of music, and while the beard growing and Riel look-alike contest winners have already been crowned (or ceinture fléchée’d?) and the canoe-shaped ceremonial fire lit, there is still a lot to catch in the final days of this winter tradition.

“It certainly is different for the francophone community than it is for the rest of our visitors, because it started off as a Franco-Manitoban celebration,” Emili Bellefleur, director of marketing and communications for Festival, says of the longevity of the fest and the fondness the francophone community has for it. “It was a place where they could all get together, and we grew it to much more than that.

“But I think what did stick throughout the years was that it’s a winter staple. It’s one of the big celebrations after Christmas, where people have had time to save up a little bit of money and are starting to get out, they’ve been really hard at work, and the fact that it falls in the study break has really helped us.”

Money and weather are no obstacles for Festival, with the extremely mild winter forcing the festival to create snow rather than plow it, and ticket prices setting you back very little.

An adult festival pass good for all 10 days is worth $22 for the main site at Fort Gibraltar, and gets you into many off-site events (and some at a discounted admission). Cash at the door is also an option.

Do, however, save your coin, because two crowd favourites are back and bigger than ever to whet your whistles and sate your sweet tooth.

“We’ve added a walk-through maple taffy station this year so people don’t have to line up to get into the Sugar Shack,” says Bellefleur.

The Molson Coors Snow Bar is also back, providing a refuge from the screaming snowsuits.

Saturday night (Feb. 25) features one of the more popular sets for the student crowd.

“Two years ago we introduced a DJ night in Voyageur Park, our main site. From the get-go it was always very popular, especially with the young adults, so we decided to add a second night,” notes Bellefleur.

The festival wraps up on Sunday, Feb. 26.

Visit www.heho.ca for details.

Published in Volume 66, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 22, 2012)

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