Frigid temperatures and strong winds took a bite out of the Festival du Voyageur’s attendance numbers for Louis Riel Day.

The day is typically one of the festival’s busiest days, but organizers said attendance numbers were down over last year.

In 2012, about 8,000 people walked through the gates to the festival when it was a comparatively balmy -1 C.

This year, with temperatures dipping down into the -20s, the grounds were quite a bit emptier.

But not everyone was kept home by the cold.

Festival admission


10-day pass :

  • Adult (18 years old and over) – $25
  • Youth (13 to 17) – $15
  • Child (6 to 12) – $10
  • 5 and under – free 

Single day pass:

  • Adult – $15
  • Youth (13 to 17) – $10
  • Child (6 to 12) – $8
  • 5 and under – free

Ken Fransoo and his daughter Mia stopped by the fest on Monday.

He said the cold weather wasn’t an issue for the pair because they came prepared.

"We use Hot Shots, in your gloves and in your boots and bundle up as great as you can," said Fransoo.

Friends Kira Kennedy and Skylar Smallacombe said they weren’t about to nix their yearly tradition because of a little cold weather.

"I think the cold makes it better. I think that people feel more festive with the cold," said Smallacombe.

Festivale honours Louis Riel

Many Manitobans had the day off Monday, with Louis Riel Day being marked across the province.

Festival du Voyageur hosted special activities all day to commemorate the life of Riel, the founder of Manitoba who fought for Metis rights.

mi-festival

Most people at Festival took shelter inside the tents, leaving the grounds eerily empty. (Marjorie Dowhos/CBC)

Riel lead the Red River Rebellion and helped create The Manitoba Act, but his life was cut short when he was found guilty of treason and hanged in 1885.

"More and more people are learning the story of Louis Riel and understanding the story behind the creation of Manitoba," said Phillipe Mailhot, the director of the Saint Boniface Museum.

Festivities began with a Metis flag presentation at Voyageur Park at noon and continued with the Louis Riel Look-A-Like Contest at 3 p.m.

Winnipeg mom Kate Gameiro said she was happy to hit the fest to celebrate Riel’s day.

"I think it’s wonderful. He’s become a rockstar of sorts," Gameiro.  

"He’s a big reason why Manitoba is what it is now."

Festival du Voyageur, in its 44th year, started on Feb. 15 and runs until Feb. 24.

Despite lower attendance numbers on Louis Riel Day, organizers said they don’t expect it to affect their overall attendance this year.