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Silver Skate ready to glide

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 06:00 am

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  • FROZEN FUN – The Silver Skate Festival includes a range of activities like snow sculptures, skating and sleigh rides.
    FROZEN FUN – The Silver Skate Festival includes a range of activities like snow sculptures, skating and sleigh rides.
    MARC CHALIFOUX/Supplied photo
  • ICE CHIPPER – Barry Collier of St. Albert works on a giant ice slide in preparation for the Silver Skate Festival at Hawrelak Park.
    ICE CHIPPER – Barry Collier of St. Albert works on a giant ice slide in preparation for the Silver Skate Festival at Hawrelak Park.

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Silver Skate Festival
Feb. 15 to 23
Hawrelak Park

With the weather hovering at around zero degrees, this is the perfect weekend to celebrate the 24th annual Silver Skate Festival.

Once rooted in Dutch traditions, it now is an elaborate mix of sports, arts, culture and recreational pursuits that takes place Feb. 15 to 23.

Traditionally, it opens on the Family Day Weekend at Hawrelak Park with a mixed bag of activities ranging from large-scale snow and fire sculptures, ice skating, and monumental slides to roving performers, sleigh drawn rides, a lantern walk and multiple outdoor sports.

This festival edition will be slightly different from previous ones. The pond in Hawrelak Park is closed due to construction in preparation for the ITU International Triathlon arriving in the summer of 2014.

In place of the pond, a temporary 8,000-square-metre ice sheet is located in the southeast corner of the park created for public skating, says festival producer Erin DiLoreto.

In addition, several ice skate races will be hosted at the festival’s satellite site at the Victoria Oval. Marathon skate races and the Kortebaan, a traditional long-blade sprint race, will be held at the Victoria Oval on River Valley Road while the Edmonton Winter Triathlon will continue in Hawrelak Park.

“Due to the closure of the park, the triathlon will be a five-kilometre run, a five km freestyle ski race and a 10 km classic ski race,” says DiLoreto.

Two new activities appear on the recreational sports roster including Olympic-themed games and inaugural snowshoe races.

DiLoreto is delighted that in keeping with the Sochi games, Canadian Tire has partnered to develop four Olympic-themed activities: broomball, hockey, luge and curling.

For instance, in curling, she notes that two sheets of ice have been created. Equipment is provided and participants just need to show up.

“We don’t have real rocks. We have jam cans and brooms. It’s more about the idea and the spirit,” DiLoreto explains.

She is also excited about the festival’s first competitive snowshoe races. In this registered event, there will be two races – a one km family fun run and a more serious five km race for the hardy.

“We are starting small and hope to build on it. We’re trying to engage the public and it gives people an opportunity to try something new and the tools are available to pursue it.”

One of the more popular artistic endeavours is the Snow Sculpture Symposium held this weekend. International and western Canadian teams from Argentina-Spain, Germany-Ukraine, France, Switzerland, Vancouver, Edmonton and Mirror (near Lacombe) will compete to create works of art from 12 blocks measuring 512 square feet (about the size of an elephant) each. Organizers quadrupled the size of the blocks of snow from previous years.

Will there be an Olympic theme to the snow sculptures?

“No,” was DiLoreto’s reply. “We don’t want to pigeon-hole the artists. It’s about sharing and you get to see so many different kinds of art.”

St. Albert’s Barry Collier has spent the last week chiselling away at ice blocks to create two slides. One is a 20-foot ice slide in the family fun zone built inside a snow maze.

“The kids can fool around in this fortress and they climb out of the maze by going on the slide,” says Collier.

The 40-foot adult slide is straight down with a slight curve at the bottom to slow down the speed.

“You curve at the end and then shoot out. You might take out people walking by,” laughs Collier.

Dog mushers, a blacksmith, cabane-a-sucre and an aboriginal village are also a big part of the festivities

And when the sun drops behind the horizon, the stunningly dramatic fire sculptures made from combustible material light the skies.

This year Marc Piquet, Sidney Lancaster and St. Albert Children’s Theatre designer Marissa Kochanski are the honoured artists creating and torching their sculptures.

“It’s really a performance. One year there was an angel that was lit on fire. Toward the end of the performance the angel was folding over and it seemed to bow to the audience,” comments DiLoreto. “It’s really something to take part in. It’s quite special.”

The majority of participatory activities occur on Feb. 15 to 17 and Feb. 22 to 23. Throughout the week, Hawrelak Park is open for public viewing of snow sculptures, skating on the ice sheets and cross-country skiing.

Collier closes the conversation saying, “The more people that come down, the better it is. There are lots of fun events for everyone. It’s the last winter festival of the season, so come down and enjoy it while it’s here.”


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