The weather is cooperating, the ice carvers’ chain saws are buzzing and everything’s well underway for the 40th anniversary celebration of Winterlude, the National Capital Region’s annual winter festival.
Spread over several locations and a trio of weekends starting February 2, Winterlude is ready to once again offer up an array of activities and events, both familiar and new, for its big birthday bash.
The Rideau Canal Skateway features the thrill of gliding along the longest skating rink in the world (7.8 kilometres!). Family-favourite The Snowflake Kingdom, with its giant snow slides and sculptures, has a new location at the north end of Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau. Taking its place this year in the south end is Mosaïvernales, a special snow and ice sculptural exhibition based on MosaïCanada, the horticultural art display that was such a hit in Jacques-Cartier Park last summer and fall.
And of course, there is Confederation Park in the heart of Ottawa’s downtown with the Crystal Garden ice sculptures, stage entertainment and a special opportunity to view the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in PyeonChang, South Korea.
Here’s a look at some of what’s in store for visitors to Confederation Park.
FROM SIBERIA WITH LOVE
Alexey Andreev has travelled a long distance in order to craft his ice sculptures at Winterlude: all the way from Siberia. Along with three fellow Russians, they have been busy adorning Confederation Park with a glassy menagerie of bears, mice and rabbits. This is Alexey’s sixth visit to Winterlude. Make sure to catch all the glittering creations by teams from around the world when the 31st Crystal Garden International Ice-Carving Competition kicks off Feb. 2 at 11:30am and runs through the weekend. The awards for top carvings will be handed out Feb. 4 at 5pm.
OFF TO THE RACES
In 1977, before Winterlude existed, Bill Galvin had an epiphany while skating on the Rideau Canal. Galvin was public relations director for the Canadian Trotting Association and thought, ‘what if someone was to revive horse racing on the canal ice,’ a long-gone tradition that first started in the 1830s. That someone ended up being Galvin, who along with the head of the Trotting Association, Roly Armitage, created Trotting on the Rideau, the most celebrated event of that very first Winterlude back in 1979.
As the country watched on TV, 40,000 people turned out in frigid temperatures to watch the quarter-mile harness races, including then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his son and future PM, Justin. The Winterlude horse races continued for nearly another 10 years. They’re no longer allowed but their memory is frozen in time and, as it happens, in ice at this year’s festival. Check out the Trotting on the Canal sculpture when you visit Confederation Park.
The upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang from February 9–25 are front and centre at Winterlude with this towering tribute in ice featuring Olympic mascot Soohorang and Paralympic mascot Bandabi. It’s presented by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea. Look for the CBC/Radio Canada tent nearby for a place to watch all the action as Canada’s Olympians go for gold.
FACE TO FACE
You won’t see your name up in lights, but your face will certainly get the star treatment. The Canadian Museum of Nature has set up Face, an art installation involving a giant-sized, blank bust that’s just waiting to feature your features. After a camera captures your face, the image is projected onto the sculpted screen with animated butterflies added in for good measure. The work is described as “an amusing reflection on identity and ego in the digital and social media era.” Get ready to see yourself in a whole new way.
Bobsleds are built to travel down a track of ice. This one is built… out of ice! A computer programmer by day, Jeremy Kuzub has been busy constructing this one adjacent to the CBC/Radio-Canada Olympic Games Rendez Vous tent which will house Olympic-style activities and screens displaying all the action from Pyeongchang. Jump into Jeremy’s bobsled, strike a pose and take a photo! And don’t worry, you won’t need a helmet.
BREAK THE ICE
To mark the Museum of Nature’s current Butterflies in Flight exhibition, Saturdays will feature large blocks of ice containing dozens of small, plastic butterflies that kids will be able to dig into. The Butterfly Ice Dig will allow youngsters to don some goggles, pick up a mallet and chisel and play polar archaeologist as they search for the frozen treasures and learn about butterflies in the process.
The 40th annual Winterlude is running for three weeks from February 2–19, 2018. See the calendar of events and official sites online.