Voyageur Day a thriving tradition

Rainy River District has a varied and colourful history dating back well over a century and every now and then, there are those here who like to remember where it all started.
Case in point, Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton.
For the past 25 years or more, the school has had a tradition of setting aside one day each winter to rediscover and relive some of those experiences.
So on Monday, the entire school spent the day playing games—some of which were popular among the voyageurs (after whom the school’s teams are named)—and generally getting together in the spirit of camaraderie.
The student body was divided into 10 teams, each led by one of the senior students, which then competed in a variety of games ranging from Bingo to tug-of-war.
Some of the games took place outside in the snow while others were in the school.
And just to make sure nobody ran out of gas, a huge potluck meal was served at noon, courtesy of parents and teachers who brought in their own favourite dishes.
The history of Voyageur Day actually precedes the school itself, which was built in 1986.
“We started about 25 years ago at the old Pinewood school,” recalled David Sharp, a former teacher and now assistant to the director of the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
Prior to the opening of Our Lady of the Way, there were two Catholic schools in the west end of the district—one in Stratton and the other in Pinewood.
Sharp said both communities have undergone considerable change over the past century.
“Pinewood was largely a French community in the 1930s,” he remarked, noting that was not always the case. But because of that influence, the voyageur concept still prevails and is reflected in the day’s activities.
“They [games] are basically things we’ve designed that work in the snow,” Sharp explained.
But the real emphasis is on co-operation and teamwork.
“The whole spirit of the games is having fair fun,” Sharp stressed. “The older kids are great at bringing in the younger ones as part of the teams.”
Of course, the adults also contributed to the success of Voyageur Day.
“I really want to express my thanks to the parents and teachers for providing all the food,” said OLW principal Ron Fryer, noting the variety of dishes was indicative of the ethnic diversity at the school.

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