Winnipeg winters can sometimes feel very long—and very cold! One great thing about winter, however, is the many notable events that still occur throughout the city during these chillier months, including the annual Festival du Voyageur! This year, the 10-day winter festival is taking place from February 15th-24th, and is celebrating its 50th anniversary! Before delving into what is in store for this year’s event, let’s take a look back at how this beloved winter festival became what it is today.

The History of Festival du Voyageur

The first Festival du Voyageur was held in 1970 after a small group of citizens from St. Boniface proposed the idea of a winter festival to celebrate Manitoba’s French-speaking community. While they initially approached the City of Winnipeg in 1967 to receive help financing the event, the City was not able to sustain this request at the time. Undeterred, the Festival’s founders spent a year gathering the support of 18 different organizations and presented the idea to what was then known as the City of St-Boniface-who approved the plan! What began as a four-day festival in Winnipeg’s French Quarter slowly grew into the beloved winter celebration that now attracts over 97,000 visitors each year!

A Visitor’s Guide to the Festival

What exactly makes the Festival du Voyageur such a special part of our winter? There truly is something for everyone—whether it be the diverse selection of musical performances, the international ice sculpture contest, or the wide array of delicious foods! Some of the traditional dishes served include pea soup, tourtière, and maple pies.  The “la tire d’érable”, or maple taffy as it’s known in English, is also a must try. This sweet snack is one of the highlights of the Festival and is simply made with maple syrup and snow! The music scene is also one of the most anticipated parts of the Festival for many visitors. The many tents found in Voyageur Park are a perfect place to warm up from the cold while also listening to some talented live musicians. In addition to the food and activities, the Festival is also a fantastic place to learn more about our country’s history, and more specifically, the role of the Voyageurs, Métis, and First Nations people. Through the Festival’s mission to promote joie de vivre using history, art, and education, visitors are able to greatly appreciate the vivacity and influence of French culture in Canada.

This Year’s Festival

Photo Credit: Javier Frutos/Canadian Geographic

With this year marking the Festival’s 50th anniversary, there are many exciting things to look forward to throughout the week. The Festival is marking this milestone by reflecting on the past and simultaneously moving in the direction of the future. Visitors may feel an air of nostalgia as they partake in several historic events, including snowshoe races on ice, dog sled rides, and commemorative concerts. The Festival also hopes to progress forward by putting a larger focus on the role of Indigenous communities during the era of the fur trade. Some anticipated events include a day dedicated to performances by Indigenous artists, a Métis flag procession, as well as a Pow Wow co-presented by the Manito Ahbee Festival.

For the last 50 years, Festival du Voyageur has brought Canadians together in the spirit of joy, culture, and community. Not only is this winter festival one of Manitoba’s most anticipated events, but it is also one that we know will continue to grow and succeed for many years to come. Whether you may be an annual Festival visitor or a first-time attendee, there are so many reasons to go out and participate in this year’s festivities. To check out the full list of events and activities offered at Festival du Voyageur this year, click here!