Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winnipeg Festival, Festival du Voyageur

St. Boniface, across the river from the bustling city of Winnipeg, is Canada's oldest community and the site for a Winnipeg Festival called Festival du Voyageur.  It is a celebration honouring the fur traders of centuries ago.
For 10 days in February, Winnipeggers, French and English, celebrate their combined heritage with the Festival du Voyageur, western Canada's largest winter event.

This year's festival started with a gathering of locals and visitors at the Forks Market close to the confluence of the Red River and the Assiniboine. Attired in fur coats; mink, fox, wolf and coyote, thick felt coats with pointed hoods and fringed shoulder decorations, and coats fashioned from Hudson Bay blankets (ever-popular even now in the 21st century), the candle-lit walk to St. Boniface was about to begin.

Walkers and modern day voyageurs, protected their upper extremities with Davy Crockett hats complete with luxuriant tails, red woolen Voyageur hats with pom poms, hats decorated with the head skin of coyotes and stylish Russian fur chapeaus. Footwear in many cases was beaded deer skin moccasins. Local police on duty were impressive in bulky buffalo fur coats.

As dusk crept over the city, we set off on the traditional Torch Light Walk along the middle of the iced-over Assiniboine River to St. Boniface Cathedral; hundreds of men, women and children, in a snaking line with candles flickering in the deepening dusk and snow gently powdering our procession.

Torch Light Walk to the Cathedral in St. Boniface
Climbing the bank leading to the front of the city's historic cathedral, we walked past the grave of Canadian folk hero Louis Riel, who was hanged in 1885 on the charge of high treason. The booming tones of church bells rang out a welcome. The mid-winter air was crisp and clear and the bell's joyous peels echoing all about us, was for me a magical experiences. The annual festival had officially begun.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Thursday, 24th February


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