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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Weather, cash bless Festival

Federal grant to help repair centrepiece of event

Posted: 02/25/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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The Festival du Voyageur got a double dose of good news during its final day -- mild weather that brought out thousands of visitors and a six-figure cheque from the federal government.

St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover was on hand to announce a $123,750 grant earmarked to repair Fort Gibraltar, the centrepiece of the 10-day event.

"We want to create jobs and long-term economic growth. Festival has attracted tens of thousands of people every year, and it's a tremendous opportunity to put Winnipeg on the world stage because of this world-class event," Glover said.

The financial support from the Western Economic Diversification Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund will be disbursed over two years. It's part of a nearly $300,000 capital project that will replace virtually all the wood -- except Fort Gibraltar's pillars -- as well as three of its cabins.

Ginette Lavack Walters, the festival's executive director, said there's no question the fort is in need of repair. Built in 1979, the replica of the historic North West Company fort originally located at The Forks is the longest-standing version.

She said between eight and 20 people will work on the refurbishing project, which is expected to start this spring and wrap up by November.

"We need 500 trees just to replace the walls, not including the cabins. We've purchased the wood; we'll take the bark off and get it split," she said.

People were still streaming in the gates Sunday afternoon, so Lavack Walters wasn't in a position to announce final attendance figures for this year's event. She was, however, able to provide an educated guess.

"It's been fabulous. We're looking really good. I think we'll be on par with last year (which set an attendance record)," she said.

"We had 100,000 people over 10 days. We'll be close this year."

While Fort Gibraltar is the focal point of the festival, it also operated 10 "trading posts" throughout the city. These venues hosted a wide variety of concerts, entertainment and events, including pancake breakfasts.

This was the first year Festival du Voyageur sold tickets online and Lavack Walters said it was an unqualified success. Not only did thousands of people take advantage of the service, but it meant considerably smaller lines to get in at the gates.

Since the construction of La Maison du Bourgeois inside Fort Gibraltar in 2000, the site has operated year-round for weddings, conferences and other events.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 25, 2013 A3

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