‘It’s the joie de vivre’: Festival du Voyageur returns to in-person festivities

Festival du Voyageur is back for its first fully in-person event in nearly three years, and Winnipeg’s French community couldn’t be happier.

Executive director Darrel Nadeau kicked off the opening ceremony at Whittier Park Thursday morning.

“It is finally time to dust off those capeaus, relearn how to tie your ceinture fléchée, and practice those héhos,” said Nadeau.

It is the first completely in-person festival since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. The event was completely online in 2021, and was scaled back last year to a hybrid online/outdoor model.

“It’s really heartwarming to know we’re back full force. Last year, we had a mini festival. It didn’t quite feel the same as this one,” said snow sculpture coordinator Christel Lanthier.

Official Voyageur Gab-Riel “Pit” Turenne said the return was welcome news for the Franco-Manitoban community.

“We look forward to this tradition every winter, every February. It’s kind of a celebration of not only our culture and our heritage, but also a celebration of winter,” he said.

Festival board president Eric Plamondon said this year’s festival is bigger than ever, featuring a blend of long-standing traditions and brand new experiences.

“You can kind of go and pick what speaks to you, but also accept the invitation to discover something new, said Plamondon.

The 2023 Festival du Voyageur features larger tents, an outdoor terrace, interactive snow sculptures and a signature beer among other new additions.

The festival’s musical lineup boasts more than 200 performing artists. Returning staples like snow sculpting, historic re-enactments, and friendly competitions round out the ten-day event.

“That’s the magic of this Festival,” said Plamondon. “All those elements mean that we are letting culture explode and letting culture heal.”

Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham said he’s looking forward to the festival experience.

“I think it’s just the fun. It’s the joie de vivre,” he said. “This is an opportunity to come together, to build community, to just have some fun together.”

Festival du Voyageur officially begins Friday, Feb. 17 at 6:15 p.m. and runs until Feb. 26, 2023.

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