Every winter for 35 years, Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba in Canada, has organized a great celebration inspired by its French-Canadian founders, the pioneers who opened a fur trading post there. The Traveler's Festival, which pays homage to these special kind of backpackers, will take place this year from February 11 to 20. This is the opportunity to perform an astonishing journey through time, while enjoying the joys of snow.
A traveler intimately linked to the history of Manitoba
The traveler the Winnipeg Winter Festival celebrates is a backpacker like no other, rather one hewn from the hardwood of Canada's forests. A traveler cousin of the gold diggers of the American Wild West, in that he was one of the architects of the westward advance of the first settlers in Canada. His gold was hairy: it was the precious beaver furs, which he exchanged with the Amerindians for large knives, grains of necklaces or even lead. For days on end, the traveler embarked with his companions on bark canoes of bark, paddled relentlessly and transported his precious goods in an unknown and hostile environment, to bring back the furs to the trading posts of the Company of the Bay of 'Hudson in particular. Winnipeg is one of those old posts. This then flourishing trade largely contributed to the clearing of Canadian territory.
Many of the travelers, of French origin, settled along the Red River, which crosses what is now Manitoba, and established a home with Native Indian women. They are the ancestors of the Métis, a large community in this region.
Winnipeg pays tribute to its founders every winter. Through them, the festival of the traveler offers a glimpse of the French Canadian heritage of Manitoba, and takes us back to the valiant times of the fur trade.
A little tour in the past
Most of the festival's activities will take place in the Parc du Voyageur, nestled against the Red River in the French-speaking district of Saint-Boniface. This is where the replica of Fort Gibraltar is built, which in the XNUMXth century housed a North West Company fur trading post. A visit to the park during the festival will be like going back to the days of the famous travelers.
Inside the fort itself, we will be able to share slices of their life. There is a trading store where furs were exchanged, but also a blacksmith's hut where the work of the craftsman will be explained; we will also describe the making of the clothes of the time or the food, rather than the gastronomy, of the travelers. Like the Indians, they mainly ate pemmican, a high-calorie dish made from dried bison or moose.
Next to the fort, the world of the Amerindians will be exhibited, with the reconstruction of an Aboriginal camp bristling with teepees, where you can listen to traditional stories. Other heated tents will house Métis or Native musicians and dancers, who will set the pace with their violins. Elsewhere, you will find handicrafts (jewelry, moccasins, furs, leather accessories, etc.), traditional games, and you can even taste the travelers' drinks!
To put into practice what we will have learned, we will be able to attend on February 12 and 13 the competitions of “Survivor traveler” kind of Koh Lanta bringing together three teams who will have to demonstrate their aptitude for survival in the environment. XNUMXth century travelers. Sensitive souls welcome, because guinea pigs will only have to answer quizzes and participate in tests of physical ability or culinary knowledge. No victims to deplore in perspective, therefore.
Fur or not, the large white coat that covers the Canadian winter will provide a wonderful playground for festival-goers. Snow and sliding will indeed be on the menu of activities offered in the park of the traveler. With, in bulk: a sugar shack where you can taste maple taffy (a kind of lollipop obtained after solidifying maple syrup on a bed of snow), a snow labyrinth for children, a sliding area, snowshoe loans to walk along the Red River ... All over the Saint-Boniface district, you can also admire the impressive work of the various regional and national teams who came to participate in a large exhibition of snow sculptures .
Finally, several one-off events are on the program for this great celebration. In addition to music and theater, we can attend French-speaking (Friday, February 18) and Cajun (Saturday, February 19) evenings at the Center culturel franco-manitobain (CA $ 30 excluding taxes, or € 18,60; ticket office on site ). The less broke will also be able to treat themselves, on February 16, 17 and 18, to a "theater" at the Maison du Bourgeois, located in Fort Gibraltar. To dine among actors in period costume, you will still have to pay CA $ 65 excluding taxes, or € 40,30. Reservations by phone 7692.
Or sleep ?
- Ivey House International Hostel: 210 Maryland Street. Phone. 3022. 15 minutes walk from the center. Closed 9 a.m. to 16 p.m. Small, clean and warm house. Very nice and inexpensive.
- Gîte de la Cathédrale: 581 rue Langevin. Phone. : (001) (204) 233-7792. In the district of Saint-Boniface. Shared bathroom. Very nice home.
Where to eat ?
- Kelekis: 1100 Main Street. The best hot dogs. Very famous place in Winnipeg, because it is part of the local history.
- The Old Boniface Station. In an old station building and a train car. Reasonable prices, specialties, including leg of lamb with organic maple syrup.
Where to have a drink while listening to music?
- The Daniel Lavoie Garden-Terrace Café: 340 Provencher Boulevard. In the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Center. Franco-Canadian cuisine: pies, au gratin soups, pumpkin pies. At noon only. Tuesday evening, jazz concerts. On other evenings, groups occasionally perform.
- Ticketing : 10-day passes (CA $ 22, or € 13,65, per adult; Ca $ 8, or € 4,95, for 6-17 year olds) are on sale on the festival site and at the Center Franco-Manitoban culture. They give access to all the attractions of the festival, except the events that require a special ticket.
- information: the official festival website: www.festivalvoyageur.mb.ca.