Considering the Festival du Voyageur is just three days away, I thought it would be the perfect time to share this article I wrote for The Projector. There’s some new additions to the outdoor festival this year, and I honestly can’t wait to go.
Come February, the temperatures will likely be cold and the homework will likely be piled on thick, and according to Manitoba’s beloved winter festival, that’s the best time to head outdoors.
For its 46th year in a row, Festival du Voyageur (FDV) returns to St. Boniface from Feb. 13 to 22.
This year, the festival will feature all the classic winter activities, like horse-drawn sleigh rides, slides and snowshoe workshops, but it will also introduce something new.
Fort Gibraltar — the festival’s main hub — will be open late, from 9 p.m. to midnight, to introduce the brand new Bar Gibraltar. Fort Gibraltar would normally be closed at 9 p.m., so the extra hours in the evening give party-goers a place to dance along to music, enjoy some drinks outdoors and well into the evening.
“I think the Fort Gibraltar bar is exactly what the people need,” said Barney Morin, a first-year Creative Communications student and a historical interpreter for the FDV. “Normally the Fort closes at 9 o’clock, you sort of miss that historical aspect.”
Morin, 23, has been attending the FDV since elementary school, but has been an avid festival-goer for the past five years. He dresses up like a voyageur and teaches visitors the rich history of Manitoba.
“Out of all the things that are good this year — 130 bands playing, 100 are local — the bar is going to be the highlight,” said Morin.
Ginette Lavack Walters, executive director of the festival, said the outdoor space at Fort Gibraltar is going to now be programmed with fire jugglers, fire pits, voyageurs singing songs, DJs, and of course, Bar Gibraltar.
She said although many people would rather hide from the cold and their homework, it’s important that they come out and experience the festival.
“I’ve been through university, and I’ve done that reading week, and sometimes you just need a break,” said Lavack Walters.
“You need to change your environment and you need to change your frame of mind. A great way to do that is to grab a couple of friends and come out.”
More than 130 musicians or musical acts of all different genres will play during the 10-day festival.
“If you want something that helps to kind of get you loosened up and not thinking about everything else that’s stressful in your life, Festival is a great way to do it,” said Lavack Walters.
Other FDV events include the 33rd beard growing contest, a mascot competition and jigging and fiddling competitions.
This year marks the seventeenth annual THIN AIR Winnipeg International Writers Festival. This bilingual festival features Canadian and international writers sharing their work through book readings, poetry slams, lectures, and more.
This festival features events that appeal to different audiences, as they vary widely in content and are featured in different locations around the city including: the Millennium Library, Manitoba Theatre for Young People, and the Park Theatre. “If you don’t like one, you’re probably going to like the next one.” said Charlene Diehl, the festival Director.
This year, the festival is expecting an attendance of 5,000-6,000 people—a number that’s been growing every year. “I think our real expansion effort is in expanding our audience, not necessarily expanding the festival. I think as an event, it’s a really, really great size,” said Diehl.
If you don’t know where to start, Diehl has some suggestions. “As a point of entry, I would recommend the Forewords show.” This show features Genni Gunn and The Winnipeg Poetry Slam Team on Saturday September 21 at the Free Press News Café. “That evening wraps up with a haiku death match; it’s crazy-fun.”
Another must-see according to Diehl is Columpa Bobb and her Urban Indigenous Theatre Company at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain on opening night. They will be performing excerpts from The Moving Gallery: Beyond Survival. “It’s about the lives of Aboriginal youth in our city, and the challenges but also the resilience of those kids and their efforts to find ways around the roadblocks of drugs and gangs and poverty,” said Diehl. “I think that’s going to be one of those nights where we all just take a big breath at the end of it and say: Wow, that was memorable.”
Jim Nason, a returning writer to the festival, said that he “can’t wait” to get back. “What I know about Winnipeg and THIN AIR is that the entire city is somehow involved—everywhere you go during this wonderful festival (the mall or the street or the library) Winnipeg is about celebrating great literature and having fun. There’s no pretention and there’s a spirit of generosity unlike anywhere in the world.” Nason will be at Red River College’s Roblin Centre on Sept. 26 at 3:00pm reading from his new novel “I Thought I Would Be Happy.”It’s free and open to the public, so be sure to come on down.
THIN AIR runs from Sept. 20-28. To find your way around, an event guide can be found at McNally Robinson or at any Winnipeg Public Library. Inside you will find writer biographies, times, locations and ticket prices.
For more information on this event, check out their website.