Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Festival du Voyageur draws hundreds of visitors

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Festival du Voyageur was teeming Saturday with hundreds of visitors at Voyageur Park.

They moved in steady streams through Fort Gibraltar, piled into the wagons for sleigh rides and lined up outside without complaint to take in the entertainment in tents outside the wooden palisades.

That was thanks to mild temperatures that hovered at zero under sunny skies.

"The weather has been perfect this year," said Bonaventure Chausse, one of dozens of re-enactors in period costumes with colourful names who portray characters from the 18th and 19th century fur trade on the Red River.

Chausee stood at the fort’s open gates, greeting visitors and taking questions.

He said the strangest are the obvious questions you never expect :" Is that a real fire?" Or "Is there beer in the fort?"  Yes to the first. No to the second.

With no wind Saturday, even the camp fires that are a signature feature of the Festival were well behaved, with tender curls of wood smoke lifting into the air.  And not a single spark to singe your trapper’s fur hat or mukluk boots.

Last year, bitter cold weather kept crowds away from the ‘Peg’s winter festival and attendance dipped to about 100,000. That’s not likely to be a problem this time.

"It’s perfect for this," said Harry Neufeld, who took in the sleigh ride with his wife Dawn. The pair strolled through the festival for two hours, touring the fort’s re-enactment events and picking up candy at the souvenir tent.

It’s the first time the Winnipeg couple said they’d taken in the Festival in 10 years.  

The 43rd festival opened Friday and runs until Feb. 26. It is a 10-day celebration of the province's francophone, Métis and First Nations roots.

A pass for the entire festival runs you $22 (aged 6-17, $7) and without a pass, daily admission to Voyageur Park is $13. Passes are available at Safeway, Club Regent Casino, the Centre culturel franco-manitobain and the St. Boniface festival office at 233 Provencher Blvd.

The park is open to the public Monday for Louis Riel Day. The park is closed Tuesday and Wednesday for school programming.

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