AD: Grow your business with AT&T.

World Wide Jam


"Youth, Lightness, and Good Spirits": le Festival du Voyageur

grant czerepak (vadis)

Bearded, red-toqued men, burdened by their backpacks and the canoes on their shoulders, head west into uncharted central North America. They have covered over a thousand miles since leaving Montreal in early May, 1647. Each day they paddle and portage for eighteen hours, only stopping on the hour to smoke a pipe.

The money is good. It only takes youth, lightness of frame, and good spirits to qualify. Youth keeps the men alive. Light weight allows them to carry more in the canoe, and good spirits get them home. These Frenchmen learn how to survive where the furs and the trade are to be found. They learn the languages and, over time, marry native women.

The Northwest and Hudson Bay companies, and a booming hat market in England, drove these coureurs des bois -- the Voyageurs -- across the continent in search of beaver pelts. A fur-trading station at the confluence of the Red and Assinniboine rivers evolved into the city of St.Boniface (now a district of modern Winnipeg). The journeys of the canoeing Voyageurs eventually became too costly to continue. But the Voyageur spirit lives on.

The Province of Manitoba's 1970 centennial included a three-day "Festival du Voyageur," celebrating the French-Canadian contribution to Manitoba and the Voyageur spirit. The festival grew to be Winnipeg's most popular winter celebration, and it's now among the top three winter festivals in Canada. Over 150,000 people attend the festival each year; more than a quarter of those are visitors, not locals.

Bonnie Procter is a third-year English/French major at the University of Winnipeg. Like most locals to local events, she never got around to attending the Festival. Until now: here Bonnie shares her first-timer's impressions of the 1997 Festival du Voyageur.

"I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know that people came from all over the world to do the snow sculptures I would be seeing. I had never tasted bannock or tortieres before. I had never spent any time in the French district of St. Boniface at all.

Picture of a

Hensen-like snow sculpture"Sculptors came from Mexico and Germany and other countries to design and create art from ten-foot cubes of snow. Most had never worked with snow as a medium before. In fact, some hadn't anticipated how cold Winnipeg really was -- the Canadian armed forces had to loan clothes to them so they could work outside.

"The sculptors used a grid system to design their works and then transferred the pattern to the ten-foot snow blocks. They could not use water, paints or dyes in their works. The results were absolutely amazing: highly detailed angels, log cabins, moose heads, frogs, fish, abstract sculpture, even an Inuit playing a violin.

"One criticism: neither the sculptors' identities nor the inspirations behind their work were shared with the viewer. Perhaps they'll share that knowledge in the future.

"The snow sculptures were attended by a lively schedule of events. The first of these I attended was the art-and-craft symposium. The soapstone carvings by Inuit artists impressed me most. Among the numerous craft products were fur hats and moccasins of very high quality. I was even able to watch moccasins being made by hand -- quite a process.

"Afterward, I attended three quite different shows. The first was a folk music performance by a gentleman and his two very young daughters -- "Les Chammartin's," their family name. They were great. The elder daughter sang amazingly well. The second show was sort of a violin orchestra -- not as entertaining for me but well received by an older audience. The third show was a French folk band playing Quebecois folk songs. They were good, but Les Chammartin stuck with me the best.

"As to the food: I really enjoyed the bannock -- a type of unleavened bread eaten by the Voyageurs. I ate a tortiere, a kind of meat pie made with ground beef and covered with gravy. One of my friends and I made "taffy on snow": we poured out lines of maple syrup on the snow; when they had cooled, we rolled them up on sticks. Obviously, they were delicious.

"I can understand now why the festival has remained so popular. If there's any way to make you forget the icy below-zero temperature, this is it."


windwalker said:

I am once again a very small child exploring the paths through the Montana woods and find a place of total enchantment where there lived a very wise old man who taught me to talk to the fairies on their huge sunflower telephones and walk down a magic path to where the trout filled pond lay glistening in the sun. An old dead tree stump, carved with nitches here and there and a crow's nest sat atop it waiting for its owner to come cawing back, while I, in awe and wonder, saw a Fairy Post Office which held from time to time, a pack of Wrigleys Juicy Fruit gum, a string of pearls or a nail set to fix my nails. How I loved that gentle soul and often wished his tale be told. His name was Hawkins and the place was Absarokee, Montana

Join the conversation!

Most Active Topics:

Topic 31 What would you do if you & your love where the last people on the planet???

Topic 8 Who writes poems

Topic 53 CHESS

All Flash! Topics


One of the artists at work.

"The sculptors used a grid system to design their works and then transferred the pattern to the ten-foot snow blocks.

Bundled up for the weather.

As to the food: I really enjoyed the bannock -- a type of unleavened bread eaten by the Voyageurs. I ate a tortiere, a kind of meat pie made with ground beef and covered with gravy.

One of the more realistic sculptures.

For more information about the Festival du Voyageur call (204) 237-7692.

Also in Flash!:

My E-Minds Story
High school sophomore and community member Meena Jagannath offers up a Flash! perspective on the meaning of Minds.

Stolen Treasures: New Revisions
Hitler's dream of a great art museum in Linz, Austria has spawned many unexpected results through an engaging web-based collaborative art project in this Flash! from Toronto's Mark Jones.

"Youth, Lightness, and Good Spirits": le Festival du Voyageur
The frozen winters of Manitoba provide historically entertaining possibilities providing you work with what you've got, which is what Grant Czerepak shows us in Flash!

Complete Archive


world wide jam


electric minds | virtual community center | world wide jam | edge tech | tomorrow | conversations

Any questions? We have answers.

©1996, 1997 electric minds, all rights reserved worldwide.
electric minds and the electric minds logo are trademarks of electric minds
online information system by Leverage