This Is Festival

Feb 19, 2014 by


The blue and white tent hummed with the excitement of the music and the countless beards and the carefree flannel stomping and jumping on the wood chip floor. The singer wailed in French and the guitar player’s fingers danced and flew over the strings under the flickering lights. I joined in the merriment, drinking the red caribou and beer after beer, dancing with a friend on the picnic table covered in ceinture fléchée paper and plastic to protect it from exuberant spills. Outside it was cold but inside was warm, both from the hot air being pumped into the tent from large black tubes and from the constant and unrelenting energy and movement of the tent’s occupants. We created the heat, we danced, we jumped, and wood chips landed in our hair and our tuques and clung to our jackets, in a heap on the floor.

This is Festival.







I had been to Festival one year and rolled my very own maple syrup popsicle stick. I watched as the golden liquid poured languidly over the snow-filled trough, and the bare popsicle stick was gently placed across the sumptuous line. Slowly, I rolled up the maple syrup, crystals of snow helping it all to stick together. I popped the treat in my mouth and delighted in the heavy flavours of maple and the intermittent coolness from the surviving snow crystals.

I had been one year with my cousin and her boyfriend. It was one of the first times I met him, and the three of us, along with a friend of mine, sat in one of the tents and drank beer and listened to French singers, and then we explored the preserved trading post of Fort Gibraltar, striking up conversations with the costumed actors.

I had been one year when it was -50C, and I ended up losing feeling in my feet. I had been one year and went down the toboggan run. I laughed so hard that tears bled from my eyes and into my hair, leaving salt trails behind, and my teeth smarted from the whipping wind as I laughed my guts out the whole way down. It was pain in the best kind of way: from laughing too hard, from cold teeth in the subzero temperature, from being flung from the toboggan, and from laughing so hard that my mouth dried out and I could no longer close my lips over my teeth. The smile had frozen to my face.

I have never taken part in any jigging or fiddle competition or observed the beard growing contest, but you can rest assured that these events exist at the park, as do the magnificent snow sculptures – those cannot be avoided; actually, they pop up all over the city at this time of year in celebration of the season and the festivities. There are many parts of Festival that I have never experienced, and that’s okay because the experience I have there is one that involves being surrounded by friends – friends who grew up speaking French at home with their mothers – friends who, like me, descend in some way from Louis Riel (or his family), an iconic figure of Manitoba’s history – friends who just want to get together in the dead of a Winnipeg winter and make it a little more fun and a lot more warm.

This is Festival. This is my Winnipeg. This is my home.



I have written about the Festival du Voyageur before, here here

Also, like my Facebook page and follow me on twitter. I’m cool as hell on Instagram too, so don’t miss that. 

…You know I’m kidding right? I’m actually a huge dork. Fact. 

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  1. I’ve never heard of Festival before, and I think I could probably do without -50C outdoor activities (they breed us weak in Toronto!), but it looks like you had a blast and were surrounded by good friends and, most importantly, maple syrup popsicles! 😀 So nice to see you looking so happy!

    • Colleen

      Thanks Steph. I never thought one way or another about looking happy in the pics, but by the fact that you noticed, that must mean something. I definitely felt happy that night!!! Sending you my very best and a maple syrup kiss! x

  2. Wow!! fantastic. nice images its seems to be lots of fun thanks for posting…….

  3. Looks like SO much fun!!!

  4. Maple syrup popsicles!?! YES!!!

  5. Ok, give me some beers, wrapped me up warm, put me on a toboggan with a maple popcycle and I would one very happy boy! I always love how your photography puts me in the mood for whatever setting your presenting us with. Love all of the smiles and laughter, Colleen! 🙂

    • Colleen

      Thanks Mike! I’m glad the happiness was a bit contagious. I like to keep things light if I can! And maple syrup-y!

  6. Looks like a festival, indeed! Love smiling faces in the pics!!

    • Colleen

      Totally… it was such a fun night – pretty sure my face hurt from all the laughing and smiling I did.

  7. Man, I need to visit Canada like, yesterday. You had me at maple syrup popsicles.

    • Colleen

      Ok but actually come visit. I’d say for a first time visit to Winnipeg, come during the summer, but a winter visit is also a must. You will love those maple syrup popsicles and drinking in a large tent with a bunch of bearded voyageurs.

  8. I’ve never heard of Festival but you certainly make it look like a great time! Also, I’ve never had a maple syrup popsicle, but I now sense one of those in my future 😉

  9. This sounds like sooo much fun! And clearly was, looking at your photos – love the energy and excitement they capture!

    • Colleen

      Hi Silvia, thanks for your comment, and I’m sorry I missed replying until just now! Every now and then I miss a couple!
      This is a fantastic tradition in my city, and it’s always fun to attend. Especially with a massive group of friends.

  10. How much fun and you just look so happy!! And maple syrup popsicles?! Yum!

    • Colleen

      Oh yeah, those maple syrup popsicles are a big hit, but I know more than one person who has a hard time finishing one for its excessive sweetness. This is not a problem for me, ha!

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