Deep Freeze Festival returns with winter magic
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 09, 2013 06:00 am
Deep Freeze Festival
Arts on the Avenue
Running January 12 and 13
92 St. & 118 Ave.
Admission: pay what you dare
When the arctic high sweeps into Alberta, most people grump about the cold. Not Barry Collier.
The St. Albert ice carver thrives in sub-zero temperatures.
“It’s appealing being out with the elements, being out in the cold working with ice. If you embrace the cold, you’ll enjoy it,” says Collier, artistic ice and snow producer for the Deep Freeze Festival this weekend.
Now in its sixth incarnation, the Deep Freeze Festival is a project of Arts on the Ave, an organization started by Alberta Avenue residents who wanted to give the once drab community a facelift. And they have succeeded mightily.
Defying expectations, the residents of Alberta Avenue (118 Avenue and 92 Street) have turned the neighbourhood into a colourful fiesta of ice, light and frozen fun.
Although the event primarily celebrates modern francophone, Ukrainian and aboriginal cultures, the theme this year branches out to the bronco-busting Wild West.
“It embraces different cultures, food and language. It embraces the old year, but also what’s to come in the future and the mélange of new people in Alberta,” said festival artistic producer Christy Morin.
Returning to the winter playground is a motley assortment of events and activities. Visitors who dare brave the elements are encouraged to take part in the freezer races, ice carving competition, snow sculpting, hockey tournament, juggling, jousting, giant snowball debacle, curling, skating, horse drawn wagon rides and aboriginal storytelling around a fire.
This year, the traditional Saturday night fireworks will salute the late Don Snider, an ardent festival volunteer who was an integral part of the fireworks display. He died of cancer last year.
“It’ll be the greatest display you’ve seen. His wife will be there and we will say goodbye to a great friend,” Morin added.
A Chinese lion dance will pipe its way through the streets leading crowds to a field for a fireworks display, Morin said.
Anyone who prefers to stay toasty warm can view art exhibits, the artisans’ market, mummery, dancing, singing, or even take part in a belly-dancing workshop.
Conscious of frozen toes and fingers, organizers have instituted an inaugural thaw hut competition. A collection of local architects and designers will compete to build beautiful but functional winter warming spaces. The best design receives an award and visitors can text in their favourite hut. Text addresses are on site.
In keeping with the western theme, one of the coolest exhibits this year will be ice carver Stephen Chung’s sculpture of an imposing, eight-foot by 10-foot by 12-foot bison.
Chiseled out of eight blocks of commercially prepared ice – each weighing 300 pounds – it is a work-in-progress of exceptional artistry. When lights are added, it promises to be even more spectacular, noted Collier.
The professional St. Albert ice carver has sculpted ice since 1990 and offered his services to the festival for the past five years. He is the main organizer for the upcoming chisel and chainsaw competition where grueling physical labour and precision artistry determines an ice-carving champ. New this year is a people’s choice award chosen by viewers texting in their favourite sculpture.
In preparation for the festival, Collier is also sculpting an ice bar where the drinks will be delivered to patrons via ice luge. And he’ll be dedicating time to the younger crowd by carving a cruising ice slide, a game of tic tac toe, a ring toss, and a mini-golf.
“Last year we had no problem making a hole-in-one putt. We had no snow. This year we have snow and it’ll be a little harder making that hole,” he laughs.
Another winter highlight is the arrival of snow sculptors Wilfred Stijger and Edith van de Wetering of the Netherlands transforming the landscape with two sculptures. One is of a stagecoach. The other is a First Nations woman’s face.
“We harvested snow from Rundle Park. We made snow forms and tramped them down like grapes,” Morin explained.
Saturday highlights francophone culture with the talents of Bob Landry, Paul Cournoyer, the Montreal clown-juggling-opera duo Bande Artistique, Zephyr Dance Troupe and Adje African Dance & Music.
Visitors will be able to join in the traditional cabane à sucre (warm maple syrup served on snow) and feast on hot tourtières, homemade vegetable soup, baked beans, bread pudding and sugar pie.
Sunday belongs to the Ukrainian community with performances by Cheremosh Dancers, Ukrainian Men’s Choir and Ukrainian/Aboriginal Dance Collective featuring Vince Reese and Mark McKennitt.
Perhaps one of the more popular festival eats is the Sunday fire-roasted suckling pig on a spit.
“We start serving it at noon on the south side of the community centre until it’s gone,” Morin said.
There are too many events to mention. However, a complete guide to activities, times, locations and maps is available at www.deepfreeze.ca.