Fire and Ice for one and all

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Family Day in February means fire, frost, and fun for families, and it’s all for free.

The Fire and Ice Festival is once again coming to bring people out of their cosy shells and gather in a public park for activities and excitement galore.

Festival organizer Bryan Mroz said that they expect somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5,000 people at Lacombe Lake Park from noon to 4 p.m.

“The more people, the better we feel that we’ve done.”

That’s why it’s important for everyone to plan on St. Albert Transit’s free park and ride service as there will be no parking on site. Please note that the buses will leave from the St. Albert Centre Exchange starting at 11:50 a.m. and will run every 10 minutes until 4:30 p.m. with the last bus departing Lacombe Lake Park at 4:38 p.m. Dogs will be permitted on the bus where space allows.

It’s safe to say that there will certainly be a large crowd of smiling folks on Monday afternoon. For years now, the St. Albert Firefighters Local 2130 has hosted the event as a way of reaching out to the community and making sure that everyone has a fantastic and safe time on the holiday.

Mroz went out on a limb and risked a jinx by saying that there has always been good weather for this goodwill event. All of the firefighters who have contributed to putting it together or will be volunteering on the day are looking forward to Fire and Ice just as much as everyone else is.

“This is one of our big events. It’s always good to get out there with the public and show them what we can do.”

There is always a lot going on in just those four hours, and yes, a lot of the festivities revolve around either the theme of ice or fire.

First the ice

Lacombe Lake Park has a fine frozen pond so why not put it to use? The firefighters always lace up for some pond hockey action against members of the public.

“The ice should be good this year. It’s already 26” [thick]so as long as it doesn’t melt the surface then it’s good,” Mroz said.

So bring your skates and sticks and show the team your slick moves. If the competition isn’t your thing, the ice surface will be available for some gentle free skating too. That’s always a big draw too, Mroz noted.

Not all ice is for recreation, however. Another big draw is the show put on by ice carver Barry Collier of Ice Worx who has been turning heads with his amazing ice sculpture art for the last three years.

“He also brings out some ice cubes so the kids can play with those and stack them. It’s like big building blocks.”

The cabane à sucre (put on by ACFA Régional de Centralta) will help soothe the savage sweet tooth. From there, you can check out the firefighter-themed obstacle course. Mroz confirms that it’s the popular attraction that will make sure people can burn the sugar off. That’s another big line there.

He emphasized that it’s still a family-friendly obstacle course, not one of those ultra gladiator versions that you might see on TV.

“We’ve got it all built already. Every year, we tweak it: add stuff, take stuff out, make it streamlined. It’ll be fun for everybody.”

Then the fire

Since the firefighters are putting on the show, it just makes plain sense that they should bring a fire truck or two along for one and all to admire. As for the weather, it’s impossible to predict where February will take us. At least there will be fire pits plus hot chocolate, coffee, free hot dogs and s’mores to keep bellies filled with warmth.

If your eyes need some heat too then feast them on the fire artist performance by Fable Arts with two shows starting at 2 and 3 p.m.

Next the furry

Sturgeon County’s MP Stables will have two horse-drawn sleighs available to give people rides around the grounds. Expect lineups for this popular feature, Mroz said. That’s why they always have two sleighs going around.

This won’t be the only animal attraction at Fire and Ice. “This year we’re expanding too.”

Among the new activities on the lineup is a petting zoo courtesy of Finnegan Farm, also of Sturgeon County.

“It’s a big one,” he said of the crowd-pleaser.

It’s going to be almost like Finnegan’s ark with miniature ponies, donkeys, alpacas, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, and ducks.

“The list goes on and on. It’s going to be interesting,” Mroz said.

Shaylin Finnegan said that they would have around 20 “well-behaved animals” for the crowds.

“These guys are all hand-raised. A lot of them are rescues so they’re bottle babies that we get from farmers. They’re all very, very friendly and nice to people. We have them travelling from a young age so it’s pretty normal for them.”

Finnegan Farms has taken their hairy team out to such events as Heritage Days, rodeos, and other community celebrations where it’s been a family favourite.

“We’ve seen at some events, over 1,000 people go through.”

And everything else

There are other new features including temporary glitter tattoos from Sparkle Tattoo and new sponsor Home Depot will also have crafts at the event “if the weather cooperates,” Mroz said.

As always, admission is free but people are encouraged to make donations to Muscular Dystrophy Canada. For many years now, the firefighters have supported the charity through the Rooftop Campout campaign. They consider this festival to be the early kickoff to their massive fundraising effort.

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.