by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams
Baby, It’s Cold Outside…
Sunday was sunny windy day. The thermometer showed a temperature of -9°C, but the wind-chill was at least -24°C. With the temperature in mind, we dressed warmly and started of towards Toronto. We were headed for the Ajax Winterfest that was being held north of the city centre at the Greenwood Conservation Area.
Traffic was light and we made excellent time getting there. The road into the conservation was plowed, but very bumpy. Once through the gates we were directed, by festival volunteers, to the parking lot.
I was surprised to see the parking lot so full, but Ajax and area must breed some very hardy residents. After we parked the car and buttoned up our winter coats, we set off to the festival area.
There were no clear paths, so we forged our way through the snow to a sheltered picnic area were there was a large crowd. Once we arrived, we discovered that people were lined up for $1.00 “Horse Drawn Wagon Ride”. There were two horse drawn wagons, so the wait time was quite short. While people were waiting they get a cup of hot chocolate.
The Ajax Trail Committee had also set up at the shelter. They were offering festival attendees Nature Hikes. We watched as both adults and children excitedly loaded onto the wagons, ready for their winter adventure! From the shelter we followed two girls who were snowshoeing their way up a hill. At the top of the hill there were more activities to be discovered. The challenge was, which way to go? We followed the sound of bells and drums…
When we finally reached the top of the hill, we were confronted with a strange looking contraption. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it! It was on wheels. It had drums and bells attached to it. There was a funny looking man with a top hat looking after it and there were lots of kids on it making loud noises when they struck the drums and bells. All in all there was something magical about this strange contraption!
From the noise making, we headed over to a bonfire pit where a fire was blazing. Huddled around the open fire were festival goers, each with a long wire pole. Attached to the end of the poles was a white gooey blob! They were, of course, toasting marshmallows. There was a very nice lady standing beside to pit handing out marshmallows to anyone who wanted to toast one.
From the pits we followed the noise of laughter. Just a short distance away air filled inflatables had been set up. The kids were having a great time in them.
Suddenly the sound of dogs barking and chainsaws running filled the air! We had to go and investigate! The chainsaw noise was from an ice carver sculpting a masterpiece and the barking was from a line of dogs pulling a sled.
We had just entered another fun zone! The ice carver was using a combination of chainsaw and chisels to turn a block of ice into a wonderful work of art. The art works ranged from a sculpture of a hockey goalie to the Town of Ajax logo. Just next to the carving area were the dog team sled rides.
There were two dog teams working, carrying enthusiastic travelers smoothly across the frozen snow covered field. The smiles on the riders’ faces told the story! There were no more attractions to be seen in the area, so we headed back to the south end of the park. More adventures were waiting…
Down the Hill…
We passed the fire pit and came to a shelter at the top of a hill. The shelter was the starting point for two Ajax Winterfest activities, snowshoeing and tobogganing. Anyone could borrow a pair of snowshoes and start walking through the snow. We had seen quite a few people trying them out as we traveled the festival grounds.
Some were using them quite well, others no so well, but all were having great fun. The tobogganing group seems to be in their element! Kids and adults, alike, were sliding down the hill, laughing and screaming together. Some went down smoothly, others crashed and went head over heals. Nobody seemed to mind these minor mishaps.
They just got up, shook the snow off and started back up the hill for another run down the hill. Judi and I watched for quite some time, but finally started moving again when the chill from the wind seeped through our winter coats.
We walked back to the park road and walk down the hill towards more festival activities. At the bottom of the hill a lone chip truck was serving steaming French fries. A little further on two hockey nets had been set up for festivals goers to test their shooting (hockey) skills. From there we could see a large stage. On the stage a DJ was playing music for the festival visitors. Across from the stage, the Ajax Kinsmen had set up a food booth ready to serve hot food and drinks to chilled Ajax Winterfest participants.
A large tent, with plenty of propane heaters, had been set up to add to everyone’s comfort. After sitting for a while and much warmer, we headed back to our car. As we trekked through the snow, we watched others taking advantage of all the winter activities that the festival offered. Even though it was very cold (a wind-chill of at least -24°C) the laughter and joy was apparent everywhere.