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Deep Freeze: a super chill ice festival

Who says winter isn't a great time for enjoying the outdoors?


Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival

By Arts on the Ave

Jan. 11 and 12

On 118th Ave. between 91 St. and 95 St.


Admission: Free. Donations gratefully accepted.

A pod of graceful whales leaping into the air might not be what you’ve come to expect as we battle chill winds whistling down the Arctic.

However, the impressive whales are this year’s ice sculptural attraction at the 13th annual Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival.

Now in its 13th edition, the Alberta Avenue winter festival’s theme is Under the Frozen Sea, and visitors can expect to see numerous ice sculptures of marine life frozen in time.

In celebration of our precious marine world, St. Albert ice artists Barry Collier and Kelly Davies have teamed up not only to sculpt a whale pod. They are also carving an outdoor living room filled with clamshell furniture and a coral shaped table.

Defying -25 C temperatures, the duo is also chiselling the festival’s traditional ice bar complete with toothy shark as the luge.

“You pour in the drinks from the tail and it comes out of the mouth,” says Collier with a chuckle in his voice.

Possibly the festival’s most dramatic work of art is a 25-foot-long whale lantern hung above 95 St. with airline wire.

“It’s articulated in five pieces and in every section there is cobalt blue LED lights. There’s also guppies swimming behind it,” said festival producer Allison Argy-

The two-day festival running Jan. 11 and 12 celebrates Ukrainian Cultural Day on Saturday and Francophone Cultural Day on Sunday. Indigenous performances are staged all weekend and several venues also feature world and Latin music as well.

A dozen venues are prepped to provide food, workshops and entertainment in the way of acoustic groups, bands, dancers, choirs, visual arts exhibits and good old-fashioned storytelling.

A new addition to the festival this year is film. Curated by Candace Makowichuk, executive director of the Edmonton Short Film Festival, this cinematographic presentation screens nine shorts.

Also former executive director of St. Albert’s Profiles Public Art Gallery, Makowichuk notes that short films rarely receive much screen time compared to full-length ones.

“This festival truly encompasses a variety of arts disciplines and this is one thing the festival does really well,” she said.

One of the shorts is a four-minute work titled Lonely People Exercising to Sad Music. It requires little explanation. Another is Black and Blue, a 17-minute short about a young girl who visits her blind grandfather and discovers he fell in love with a black woman.

There’s the two-minute romantic I Love You Too that looks as if it was filmed at an LRT station and the four-minute T-Minus, a quickie about a boy and his mother who build a rocket ship.

The screenings take place at St. Faith Church, 11725-93 St., on Saturday and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday at Green Onion Cake and Simba’s Bistro from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

While an art exhibit is taking place at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts and also at the Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse, the streets will be filled with roaming artists.

Vancouver’s favourite charming troll family, The Trollsons return, garbed in new walrus costumes. As they stroll down 95 St., they will mingle with the ferocious Odin’s Ravens Vikings, the poetic Alberta Avenue Mummers and a series of ice and snow princesses.

Although this year there will be no Saturday night fireworks, the evening is packed with hip-shakin’ Latin music.

At the Big Bear Yurt Stage, world music and Latin beats start at 6:15 p.m. ending with a special set from returning Rumba Caliente, a vibrant band that plays music from all decades.

“Last year I’d been in the yurt for two and one-half hours and I stepped outside. I could hear their music ripping through the sheets. I went into the igloo and it was rockin’. Everybody was having a great time we decided we’d like to have them back,” said Argy-Burgess.

Over at Northern Lights Igloo, Latin music kicks in at 6:15 with Marco Claveria Duo followed by the Cuban brass band Esquina Latina and Mariachi Loco.

“The focus this year is on Mariachi music. I’ve listened to their music. It’s energetic and vibrant, and I wanted people to stick around and enjoy the evening.”

Tom Fool’s Kingdom, an outdoor ice world of fun, is back with a 45-foot kids' ice slide, a giant game of Crokinole, jam can curling, and frozen Xs and Os. And yes, the giant ice throne returns, a perfect nook for taking selfies.

In addition, Edmonton performer Randall Fraser has also built an eight-foot wide art installation that doubles as a whale carousel.

“People can view it and turn it manually.”

On Saturday in celebration of Malanka, Ukrainian New Year’s Eve, four dance troupes step onto the New Moon Pavilion stage to entertain crowds. They are Volya Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Vohon Ukrainian Dance, Cheremosh and Shumka.

“We’ve never had four Ukrainian dance groups before. They're usually very busy at this time. We’ve had one or two, so this is really special.”

And on Sunday, the New Moon Pavilion plays host to Zephyr, a Francophone folkloric dance troupe, and The Wajjo Drummers, a unique blend of Ghanaian African drumming beats and bagpipe rhythms.

“No matter what the weather, there are so many places to warm up. Don’t be dissuaded by the cool temperatures. After all, it’s called Deep Freeze for a reason.”

For a complete list of activities, artists and site map, visit

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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