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Festival du Voyageur relies on man-made snow

Farah Dhalla, reporter
February 20, 2012 — The warm temperatures and lack of snow on the Prairies this winter has definitely been a conversation starter.

Ice sculptures built using man-made snow
Ice sculptures built using man-made snow

While many people aren't complaining about the balmy weather, those who rely on snow to run seasonal festivities are having to find it in other ways. The organizers of Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg had to get creative this year. The annual outdoor French-Canadian event was in dire need of snow for their renowned snow sculpture symposium and other attractions.

"We really put the emphasis on the key pieces - so the main entrance sculptures, the sculptures that are throughout the city, and the Air Canada International snow sculpting symposium - those are the pieces we did first, and then whatever we had leftover, we sort of built the park around them" says Emili Bellefleur, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Festival du Voyageur.

The Festival du Voyageur generally brings in more than 100,000 people every year
The Festival du Voyageur generally brings in more than 100,000 people every year

Everything from a giant snow maze to its toboggan hill were put in jeopardy when Mother Nature wouldn't cooperate. Facing a tough call on whether to scrap some events this year, the decision was made to bring in man-made snow from a local winter park.

"We haven't had nearly enough snow in Winnipeg to do all of our snow projects, so we had to make some snow. We worked with the guys at Adrenaline Adventures here in Winnipeg, and they made some man-made snow that allowed us to complete the blocks and really put the emphasis on those structural pieces and those important pieces that people are looking for," Bellefleur continues to explain.

The snow didn't come cheap either, and was a steep price that the non-profit group wasn't expecting to pay this season. They're hoping to recoup roughly $11,000 by the end of the ten-day festival and have created additional space to handle more visitors.

"Hopefully the mild weather sticks around, which it is sort of forecast to be, and hopefully we'll see more people in the park. [We've also] increased the capacity in our tents, so we are able to welcome more people. Louis Riel Day is always a big day for us so we're hoping a lot of people will come out if the weather stays nice. That will recoup some of the fees involved with making snow," says Bellefleur.

If the weather should decide to return to more winter-like and what Manitobans are used to, don't worry, there will be plenty of places to keep warm. Heated tents with family-friendly entertainment, welcoming faces and traditional francophone food aren't hard to come by at the largest winter festival in western Canada. For now, though, the winter of 2012 is shaping up to feel more like spring, which happens to be just around the corner.

With files from

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