Festival du Voyageur is growing – because it’s awesome

The New Lightweights perform at this year's Festival du Voyageur.
The New Lightweights perform at this year’s Festival du Voyageur.
Fresh Cut - Brenlee Coates
Fresh Cut – Brenlee Coates

The Festival du Voyageur wears its title proudly as the largest winter festival in Western Canada.
That being said, Winnipeggers seemed to resent the fact a little more this year, finding themselves waiting impatiently in queues to enter the festival or a desired tent. Or, at least that’s how some media reported it.
There are so many ways to avoid the lineups and cut right to the fun at Festival.
For one, getting your festival pass at Safeway (easily the most accessible option) means you avoid the box office and strut right to the entrance without waiting.
You can also buy tickets online or at the Festival du Voyageur office (during office hours), which is on Provencher Boulevard walking distance from Voyageur Park.
An adult day pass is $15, while a 10-day festival pass runs for $28.
It’s easy to see that if you think you might want to go to the festival more than once, it is well worth shelling out the $28. The pass also gets you entry to Club St. B, which hosts the unofficial afterparty of the festival each night.
Having the festival pass maybe lightens the blow when you’re stuck in line at one of your favourite bands’ tents, too, because you know you can catch them the next week or at their less hectic afternoon show on Sunday.
Really, as long as you get in to a tent, which is generally always possible, you’ll have fun if you’re with the right crowd and in the right spirits. Obviously, a little Caribou liquor never hurt anyone either.
When it comes to catching that ultimate, jam-packed show bursting with people, you’ve got to make an evening of it – show up early enough that you catch a couple acts before the closing act, and secure your spot in the most coveted tent that night.
Festival du Voyageur tried to anticipate the crowd this year, expanding the MTS Rivière-Rouge Tent with 300 additional seats, and adding a new outdoor bar.
However, they were somewhat surprised to see more than 550 visitors come through the Voyageur Park gates every 15 minutes at peak times, when the average usually hovers around 150.
These numbers account for some of the long-winding lines at popular tents and to get to the ticket office.
It’s come up again and again: but since the park’s activities shut down around midnight most nights, it’s not the place to show up fashionably late. The park’s entrance even closes down one-hour before closing time, avoiding an extra flood of people to usher out.
The Festival du Voyageur is well-aware that attendance is growing faster than anticipated, and is already taking initiative to expand the festival accommodations even more in 2015. This year, they saw over 100,000 people visit the various festival sites in their 45th anniversary year.
They have already partnered with other venues to relieve some of the pressure off the park.
Exciting acts played at the Centre culturel franco-manitobain, Le Garage Café, Finn’s Pub, and Chez Sophie on the bridge, all in close proximity to the festival park.
This year, they even expanded programming to open a new site on the Red River Mutual Trail, where they presented a fashion show on ice.
The Festival du Voyageur is also a great time to ditch the car – ride right up to Provencher and Rue St. Joseph on transit, or park at The Forks and take a free shuttle to the park. It will relieve your nerves from the festival parking queue or the epic search for a street parking spot which will make you feel like pulling out all your beard hairs.
This is a lot of information to take in – but a seasoned veteran of the festival can tell you most of these things.
The real, indescribable perks of the festival are the facts that suddenly, everyone is appropriately dressed for the weather – bundled in layers that scream our nationality – and up for a good time. During the most morbidly cold days of winter.
All of your favourite local bands are playing, plus international bands you’ve never heard of that you’ll inevitably enjoy, and you’ll hear French spoken both casually and on the mic by hosts.
Shouting “Hé ho!” with a group of strangers is one of the best things you’ll ever do.
And cushy woodchips under your feet paired with the smell of poutine wafting in the air is almost euphoric.

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