Festival du Voyageur draws big crowds

Festival du Voyageur is on track for a big year.
Sunny, mild weather is drawing large crowds to Festival du Voyageur. (CBC)

Festival du Voyageur is on track for a big year.

More than 20,000 people visited the winter festival in its first three days, Feb. 17-19.

Typically, the total for the 10-day event in Winnipeg is about 100,000, said Emili Bellefleur, director of marketing and communications.

The festival site is bathed in coloured lights at night. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

She attributes the high attendance to unseasonably mild weather and expects the numbers will soar again on Monday.

In addition to being Louis Riel Day, a statutory holiday, it is also the day that the Stanley Cup will stop by.

The NHL trophy will be at Voyageur Park, at the Fort la Reine tent, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. CT, as part of Scotiabank's Celebration of Hockey tour.

Festival admission

  • Adult day pass - $13
  • Adult festival pass – $22
  • Youth (6-17 years old) – $7 (valid for 10 days)
  • Children (up to five years old) – free

"On a really good day, such as Louis Riel Day, we can see around 10,000 people going through our gates," said Bellefleur.

Daytime high temperatures since the festival opened have hovered at about 1 C, while the normal high is –7 C.

There was some concern in the days leading to the festival that the warm temperatures could hurt attendance because the ice sculptures and snow structures that are trademarks of the event were melting.

Organizers also spent upwards of $20,000 to haul in hundreds of truckloads of artifically-made snow.

People pack into the souvenir tent at Festival du Voyageur on Saturday. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Instead, the crowds have been so large that long lineups have formed to get into the festival site and various tents. The wait on Saturday to get tickets at the main gate was sometimes 30 minutes.

Bellefleur recommends people arrive early to avoid the lines and suggests carpools because parking is limited.

Another way to bypass the line is to get an event pass, which allows you to go straight to the gate rather than wait in the ticket line.

Dubbed "the world’s largest kitchen party," Festival du Voyageur celebrates Manitoba's fur-trading past and francophone culture through the joie de vivre of the fur traders, who established the Red River Colony.

The festival runs until Feb. 26.