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Where to celebrate Louis Riel Day

With a variety of activities to choose from there’s sure to be something to interest you on this long weekend

Tobogganing at Spruce Woods Provincial Park.

Do you have plans for the Louis Riel Day long weekend? Are you getting a little tired of winter? Why not use the holiday to do something different, choosing from the many activities happening.

A February holiday was originally started in Alberta in 1990 to celebrate the family life of the early pioneers and to break up the doldrums of winter. Several other provinces eventually copied this, but not all, so it remains a civic holiday, not a federal one, so federal businesses such as the post office remain open.

The third weekend of February was chosen by most provinces (except B.C. deciding on the previous weekend) with Alberta naming its holiday Family Day, and Manitoba, after a school naming competition, choosing Louis Riel Day. Our province first introduced the holiday in 2007, and first used the name the following year.

In Manitoba, the historical aspect of the holiday is celebrated with the Festival du Voyageur starting up that weekend in Winnipeg, and running all week. The largest winter festival in Western Canada, it holds a variety of cultural events including musical entertainment, ice sculptures, handmade crafts, French-Canadian foods and various exhibitions. As well, the St. Boniface Museum has free entry on Louis Riel Day, with many Métis cultural events planned.

Elsewhere in the province, outdoor activities such as skating, hockey and skiing are most commonly seen with many community events and winter festivals planned. (Check out town websites.)

The Manitoba Agricultural Museum near Austin has activities planned from 3 to 8 on Louis Riel Day. The Homesteaders’ Village will display a light show, and horse-drawn sleighs will provide rides (weather permitting). Hotdogs and hot chocolate will be available, as well as bannock and locally produced jams and jellies.

At the Bittersweet Ski Trails south of Rossendale, the Sunday of the long weekend is always “loppet day” (snow and weather permitting). It’s a family day for cross-country skiing, not a competition, and the Bittersweet Trails have a reputation for having some of the best trails in the province.

Skiing at Bittersweet Ski Trails. photo: Donna Gamache

Provincial parks have free entry for February, so any of them would be good to visit for the long weekend. Spruce Woods Provincial Park has “Learn to Ice Fish” on Saturday, February 17, with no fishing licence required. Or make it a weekend for other winter sports — skating and jam pail curling, or snowshoeing, skiing and tobogganing if snow cover is adequate. At Riding Mountain National Park, Friends of Riding Mountain will have guided snowshoe hikes to a bear den, as well as a marshmallow roast, bannock roasting and snow games for children on February 17 and 18.

Another activity happening that weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count, held over four days, when birdwatchers count and record how many birds they see. This event, sponsored by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is free of charge and open to anyone who is interested in birds.

Will all the different activities planned for the Louis Riel Day long weekend there’s sure to be one that will interest you.

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