When René Comeault's brother called him one February, asking him to help at Festival du Voyageur, Comeault had no idea it would turn into a life-long commitment.

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This article was published 17/2/2015 (2689 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When René Comeault's brother called him one February, asking him to help at Festival du Voyageur, Comeault had no idea it would turn into a life-long commitment.

Some 30 years later, Comeault is still involved with the festival annually and loves the 10-day celebration of Canada's fur-trading past and French heritage.

"The people, the food, the music -- everything's great," said Comeault, 63. "The people are the biggest thing. I love meeting people."

Comeault was in a prime spot to meet people when he started volunteering at the festival, since he served as a bartender. He also helped set up and tear down events held at Le Rendez-Vous, a now-defunct concert hall the festival operated.

Today, as a member of the St. Emile Knights of Columbus Council, Comeault volunteers at the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre, taking tickets, selling merchandise and cleaning up after events.

'As soon as they were born, they went straight to the festival'

The centre hosts a variety of events during the festival, including a winter feast, a number of concerts as well as jigging, fiddling and beard-growing contests.

The council also runs the ice bar at Voyageur Park.

Now retired, Comeault used to use vacation time from his job as a land surveyor so he could volunteer at the festival.

Comeault's family history in Canada dates back to the 1600s, and some of his ancestors were voyageurs. He grew up in St. Boniface and recalls attending the first festival when he was in high school.

"It was a community affair," he said. "You would go to as many activities at the festival as you could, within reason, or as many as you could afford."

The festival has also become an important tradition for Comeault's spouse and children: Anita, his wife of 36 years, attends and volunteers, as do his two adult daughters, Leanne and Josee.

"My kids grew up at the festival," Comeault said.

Comeault's grandchildren will do the same. Lachlan and Izabelle each attended their first festival at less than four months of age.

"As soon as they were born, they went straight to the festival," Comeault quipped.

He struggles to name just one favourite memory from the festival.

"There are so many," he said. "I've always enjoyed the musical performances by the Cajuns who come up here. They've been coming up here for years. A lot of outstanding groups come from Quebec as well."

Over the years, Comeault has watched proudly as members of his family have served as Official Voyageurs, a group of ambassadors who help promote the festival.

"To have a favourite moment in the 46 years that the festival's been going on would be hard to say. There's so many to that stick out, you don't want to pick just one."

The 46th annual instalment of the festival started this past Friday and runs until Sunday.

More than 1,000 people are volunteering this year at the festival's nine official sites, ensuring everything runs smoothly and everyone has a good time.

If you've never been to the festival before, Comeault has an invitation for you.

"I just would like everyone to come out and enjoy it," he said. "Come and see what it's all about."


If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.