Western Canada’s largest winter festival is only getting bigger. A whopping 130 musical acts will be performing at Festival du Voyageur in 2014. The 45th annual celebration of Franco-Manitoban culture runs from Feb. 14-23 at Voyageur Park and various other sites in Winnipeg.
“We’re growing every year and we try to get more bands. My big thing is promoting French music from all across Canada,” says the Festival’s 2014 artistic producer Julien Desaulniers.
“We’ve booked bands from Quebec, Ontario, Acadia and out west, while still supporting the local music scene. We have some great musicians right here in Winnipeg and we want to tap into that, so it’s mostly local bands that will be playing.”
Most of Festival’s 10 venues are around the Voyageur Park site in St. Boniface and the Forks, with Club Regent Casino being the main exception.
Desaulniers says the line-up he’s put together varies greatly over the course of a day.
“During the daytime I’m looking for musicians that are family-friendly, lots of children’s acts and music that everyone can enjoy in general like Sweet Alibi and Don Amero,” he says. “At night it’s totally different, we want to encourage everyone to come down and party. We’ve booked bands that are way more upbeat like Royal Canoe and The Lytics.
“We’ve got a lot of Francophone content, but we’ve also got some Anglophone artists. I personally get a lot of satisfaction from programming French bands at night and seeing people who don’t even speak French rocking out.”
One of the local Francophone acts playing is collage-à-trois, a folk/jazz/R&B trio that formed in 2011, released a self-titled EP in 2012 and will be playing its first Festival du Voyageur this year.
“It will be exciting to play some of our original music and some French Canadian folk music on the big stages in front of the big crowds, says Rayannah Kroeker, 24, the group’s percussionist and co-vocalist.
“I remember being at the front watching when I was a kid and I’m super excited to be on the other side now.”
Justin Lacroix is another local singer-songwriter who’s been at almost every Festival du Voyageur over the last decade. He recently released an album called Still the Boy.
“I was going to say the wood chip smell is my favourite thing about Festival, but playing in a tent in the winter is cool and there’s always great energy in there,” says Lacroix, 34. “It’s a big event in the Francophone community and the turnout is usually great because of that.”
While many of these musicians play other shows in the city throughout the year, Desaulniers says you should still catch them at Festival du Voyageur.
“A winter experience like this is totally unique and it’s a great value,” he says. “You’re only playing $28 for a 10-day pass and you can see 130 different bands, so I think the price just speaks for itself.”
Published in Volume 68, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 13, 2014)