It’s a permanently marked date on many Winnipeggers’ calendars: the start of the annual Festival du Voyageur.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, people won’t be able to get their hé ho on in person for the 2021 edition of Festival, but executive director Darrel Nadeau says the organization has a few tricks up its sleeves this year.
“What we’ve done is we’ve put some really careful attention into all the signature experiences that people can have at Festival du Voyageur, and we’ve found a way to make it possible to experience either online or at home or by ordering from a restaurant,” Nadeau told 680 CJOB.
“People will be able to enjoy Festival in a different way and hopefully feel the warmth and the joie de vivre that we’re used to bringing.”
Although the in-person events are moving to your computer screen, one familiar Festival sight is happening in a traditional way — the annual snow sculptures.
“Because there’s been such a push to get people outside, we really felt we had to go big on snow sculpture,” said Nadeau.
“This year, we have many more than we usually have, and we have them spread across the city.”
The multitude of sculptures, coupled with an interactive map available on Festival’s website, will, Nadeau hopes, encourage families to go out for a drive and explore some of the creations — without necessarily having to venture into the bone-chilling weather.
Although the provincial government announced Tuesday that more pandemic restrictions will be loosened by the weekend, Nadeau said it’s far too late to make any changes to Festival’s plans, as the decision to go virtual was made months ago.
“It’s really too late for us to integrate anything else, but we’re really, really happy with the content we’re presenting.”
That content includes about 50 musical artists — francophone, anglophone and Indigenous — performing short virtual concerts for free on the organization’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
It may be a far cry from the usual five-stage, 150-band Festival setup, but Nadeau said it’s partly about giving artists a rare (in the time of COVID-19) opportunity to perform live.
The performances include a wide range of local artists, from live-band rap crew Super Duty Tough Work, to R&B singer-songwriter Sebastian Gaskin, folk trio Red Moon Road, and beyond.
There’s also an option, Nadeau said, for people to order traditional Franco-Manitoban food while they watch the concerts from home via meal kits and cocktail kits to complement the experience.
“We’re really trying to bring a multi-sensory experience to people while they’re enjoying the concerts.”