Aikens Lake News

Turenne Family Named Manitoba’s Official Voyageurs

Mar. 11, 2020


Few characters in history capture the romantic appeal of outdoor adventure like the voyageurs of old. Voyageurs embody the wilderness lifestyle and rich culture synonymous with the Canadian Northwoods. That spirit is honored at Manitoba’s annual Festival du Voyageur, a 10-day celebration held each February in Winnipeg’s French Quarter featuring an impressive display of entertainment, arts, music and exhibits that make it Western Canada’s largest winter festival.

Festival du Voyageur also features the “Official Voyageurs,” a local family honored with representing the Festival, serving as ambassadors for the region and living out the “Joie de Vivre” of the French-Canadian and Voyageur traditions. We are excited to share that the Turenne family of Pit, Julie, Annika, Marty and Natasha were named the Official Voyageurs at this year’s Festival!

“It is such an honor to have been selected to be the Official Voyageur family!” Julie said. “The Festival du Voyageur has always been an important part of our life and of our family and we are very happy, very proud to have been chosen to represent it as their ambassadors. Our culture has always been a very important part of our family and we are thrilled to be able to share this experience with our kids to further our knowledge and our love of this culture.”

Indeed, it is flattering to anyone to be named as the Official Voyageurs; community members nominate families who actively serve the community, help others and represent the best aspects of the voyageurs, Métis and First Nations. Because the Official Voyageurs often entertain the public as part of their duties, musical talents are another preferred attribute––such as Annika’s guitar skills, which have been on display at Festival du Voyageur for many years with her band On S’accorde performing for the crowds. 

As the Official Voyageurs, the Turennes will continue with and even increase their various charity and community involvement, participate and speak at various local events and travel to make appearances representing Manitoba and its rich culture at other region’s festivals such as Wisconsin’s Oktoberfest and Minnesota’s St. Paul Winter Carnival and Aquatennial.

“You have to eat a bazillion pancakes,” Julie laughed, citing the countless pancake breakfasts during their two-year stint as Official Voyageurs.

The newly appointed Official Voyageurs are revealed as a surprise to the entire community who gather at the massive Festival du Voyageur during the closing ceremony. The family itself is notified three months in advance but sworn to secrecy, creating an interesting “dilemma” for the Turennes in the days and weeks leading up to the Festival.

“It was very difficult to keep such a big secret from our family and friends for over 3 months,” said Julie, adding that they had to make sure their parents were in attendance without telling them why. “All kinds of questions were swirling around from why Pit was growing his beard so big, to avoiding answering questions about our plans at the festival, to making up excuses as to why we had to leave just before the closing ceremonies to quick get into our costumes. We managed to keep it a surprise right to the end, but I was all out of lies!”

Photo Above: Pit's mother, Lorraine, at the Festival the moment she realized Pit and Julie were named the Official Voyageurs. 
Photo Below: The text Julie sent her cousin who saw through the "lies" and guessed that the Turennes were being appointed Official Voyageurs.

Adding to the fun, the Festival committee surprised Julie and Pit back in October with the big news that the Turennes were being selected the Official Voyageurs. The prior Official Voyageur family is tasked with informing the newly appointed official family that they have been chosen. In this case, last year’s Official Voyageurs contacted Pit under the guise of wanting to book a trip to Aikens to celebrate a 50th birthday.

They asked to meet at the Turennes’ home office to learn more about Aikens and ask some particular questions––a request that is not entirely out of the ordinary. When the couple arrived for their appointment with Julie, they had former Aikens co-owners Phil and Jackie Lavack (who are one of the past Official Families) arrive at the same time. Julie thought Phil and Jackie just happened to show up at the same time and joined the discussion, which threw her for a loop. Little did she know they planned it that way! 

“The guy was asking all these questions. This guy’s a vegan, they have all these special allergies,” Julie recalls. “Then he says, ‘And I have another question, would you accept to be the next official family?’”

The honor has extra meaning to the Turennes because The Big Guy himself (Pit’s late father, Gerry Turenne) was instrumental in pioneering the Festival du Voyageur 50 years ago and helped run the festival for a decade from 1973 to 1983.

Photo Above: The moment Pit found his mother and sister in the crowd after being announced as the Official Voyageurs at the closing ceremony.
Photo Below: Pit and Julie celebrating with Pat and Janelle after the announcement at the closing ceremony.

“This is really going to be an awesome ride for not only the next two years as the Official Family, but also for the rest of our lives,” said Pit. “We join a pretty fun family and group of people that have done it before us.”

Click here for more information on the Festival du Voyageurs and to see the Turennes official bios as the Official Voyageurs.

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