Despite a strong turnout during its final weekend, attendance for Festival du Voyageur dropped at bit this year compared with 2017.
But that was to be expected, given last year’s unseasonably warm weather, in addition to the fact organizers moved to limit ticket sales to better control lineups, said Nicolas Audette, the festival’s marketing and communications manager.
"We’ve noticed a pretty strong correlation between weather and attendance. The first week was a bit colder. This past week, especially the weekend, has been great. Overall, it’s been a very successful 10 days," Audette said Sunday, after the closing ceremony.
While organizers won’t have hard numbers on attendance until sometime this morning, Audette said the turnout was down compared to the previous year, when above-zero temperatures had Winnipeggers heading to the festival grounds in droves.
This year saw a few new changes and additions to the iconic Winnipeg festival, including Voyageur Pride (its first LGBTTQ* event) and a cheese-sculpting competition. In addition, organizers made changes to ticket sales, with the hope of combating the festival’s notoriously long lineups.
Changes to ticket sales led to fewer people getting turned away, but Audette said they still need to fine-tune the operation for next year.
"We experimented with selling individual day passes as opposed to week passes. That lets us better know what to expect, in terms of attendance. We sold out both Saturdays, for example, so last night, unfortunately, we had to turn some people away at the door," he said.
"But we’re satisfied with the changes, overall. We feel we better managed the lineups in the park. It will allow us to know what to expect day-to-day, now that we’ve had a full year with these changes."
While overall attendance was down, organizers were pleased to see their efforts to get more families and children out proved successful, Audette said.
Children under 12 were admitted for free this year. Also, on the festival’s last day, adult passes were sold two-for-one, which organizers hoped would make the event more accessible to families.
"One of the major changes that we noticed this year was the participation of young people and families. That was great to see. We really wanted everyone to be able to participate," Audette said. "Today, we were selling adult passed for two-for-one and kids under 12 were free. So, you could get the whole family in for about $25, which is less than a couple of movie tickets."
Following the closing ceremonies, a staff and volunteer wrap-up party was held, which Audette said gave organizers a chance to unwind after a busy schedule during the festival.
"It’s just a moment for us to look back at the 10 days we just had and thank all our volunteers and staff and board, and give ourselves a pat on the shoulder, while looking forward to next year," he said.
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Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
Updated on Sunday, February 25, 2018 at 9:47 PM CST: Edited