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The Forks unveils warming huts for river trails

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Etienne Gaboury's Voyageur Hut, an elaborate Festival du Voyageur homage which will be situated where the Red River and Assiniboine River meet.

The time to warm is upon us.

This morning, The Forks unveiled plans for five of the six warming huts that will dot this winter’s river trail. Three huts were chosen from the open submission process (which saw nearly 200 entries from architects from Canada and around the world), one hut is from a separate University of Manitoba competition and another a yet-to-be-revealed design from Kelvin High School.

The final hut has been put together by internationally renowned local architect Etienne Gaboury, who was invited by the warming hut committee to participate this season. Gaboury is planning an elaborate Festival du Voyageur homage which will be situated where the Red River and Assiniboine River meet.

The elaborate shelter, entitle Voyageur Hut, is essentially a large pair of voyageur pants (complete with leg sashes) held upside-down by a large blue helium balloon shaped like a voyageur carrying a canoe on his head. The balloon is expected to fly above the ice some 200 feet in the air and will be tethered to the pants, helping sway the legs of the pants in the wind.

"That was indeed a challenge – the wind," he said, adding it was important for him to find a concept that would celebrate the 45th anniversary of Festival du Voyageur. "When you have a concept you don’t think of all the difficulties that you can encounter, wind being one of them. A challenge is an opportunity, and it gave us an opportunity to change the character of the pants so they could float in the wind."

The other warming huts include Nuzzle, a shelter made up and hundreds of brightly coloured pool noodles; SkyBox, a structure made up of an interior of mirrors; Red Blanket, long ribbons of red material hanging from the pedestrian bridge; and Windshield, a five-metre tall wind vane.

Construction on the huts is scheduled to start sometime in January; the structures are expected to be situated among the various visual art pieces that will make up the skating and hiking trail soon after that.

The Forks also announced that corporate naming rights for the river trail will be assumed by Altona-based property insurance company Red River Mutual, while Arctic Glacier will continue to hold the winter park naming rights.

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