Festival du Voyageur virtual opening weekend a hit, executive director says

It seems people are just as eager to take in Festival du Voyageur’s annual celebration of French Canadian culture from home as they are in-person, according to festival’s executive director.

“We’re very pleased with the audience reaction and how many people (are) participating,” says Darrel Nadeau.

“The musical programing so far has been well-received.”

Nadeau says each of this weekend’s concerts has been averaging about 1,000 live viewers and some 1,500 more the following day.

“It was difficult to estimate how many people would participate beforehand,” Nadeau says.

“We know how many people are connected to the concert, but it doesn’t tell us how many physical people are watching, because a household may have two people watching, it may have three people, or a whole family watching.”

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Read more: Take Festival du Voyageur home with virtual version

He also expects those numbers to climb, since the concerts will remain on Festival’s YouTube and social media page until next Sunday when the celebration wraps up.

Monday afternoon’s 90-minute concert, in honour of Louis Riel Day, featured singers, memorial dancers, puppeteers, spoken word poetry, and of course fiddle music — all by Indigenous artists.

Another four days of concerts begins this Thursday, concluding with the closing ceremonies on Sunday, but in the meantime, there’s plenty of other ways people can participate.

“People can order meal kits, they can order cocktail kits, they can go check out the snow sculptures; people can also check out some videos on how to do certain festival activities at home, for example how to make a snow sculpture (or) how to make maple taffy,” Nadeau says.

This year, rather than the dozen or so snow sculptures at the festival grounds, Nadeau says they have about 30 spread out around the city.

Read more: 2020 Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg to celebrate Indigenous, francophone culture

If there can be one upside to a virtual celebration this year, it might be staying out of the extremely cold temperatures, which plunged well into the – 30s over the long weekend.

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Over at The Forks, Clare MacKay says the cold likely drove some people away from what is normally a busier long weekend.

“The trails and skating areas are not as well-used as they would have been on another long weekend when it’s warmer,” MacKay says.

“But the market is open, Johnston Terminal is open and it’s quite lovely in here to see people again, even though in lots of instances you can only see their eyes.”

The Forks was one of many businesses cautiously reopening their doors on Friday as tight restrictions across Manitoba eased somewhat.

Read more: The Forks cuts ribbon on 2021 river trail

“We are at 25 per cent capacity, so it doesn’t look like a normal long-weekend Monday in here, but it is a great start, it’s great for our tenants to be open again,” MacKay says.

“And much better for our mission statement, which is to be a meeting place, and we haven’t been able to do that in lots of ways for almost a year now.”

MacKay estimates about 90 per cent of the shops chose to open this weekend, and despite the chilly conditions, a number of people were browsing the market and even taking to the skating trails.

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“I mean, we’re hearty, we’re Winnipeggers,” Nadeau says.

“Generally that means people will come out well-dressed and enjoy the sunshine.”

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COVID-19 won’t put a freeze on Winnipeg winter activities – Nov 19, 2020

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