Winterlude Festival

by Judi (Scoop) McWilliams

Missed It By That Much!

The right place, the wrong time! Over a decade ago the Festival Nomad and I were in Ottawa on one of the coldest, snowiest, wind blowing, bone freezing days. We were extremely disappointed that we had missed Ottawa’s Winterlude Festival by just a day.

To add to our disappointment, for some reason, (we surmised due to weather related issues and the need to break up the ice on the Rideau River to avoid flooding), the Canal was closed in some parts to the public. We apparently “mixed up” our dates (there were no “internet” solutions back then). We had all our winter gear packed in the trunk of the car, including our skates.

After travelling such a long distance, the closeness of skating on the famous Rideau Canal was tempting. So we geared up in the car, put on our skates at the curbside and crept down a steep embankment. We risked frostbit due to the sub-zero temperatures. After a fast five minute skate, we slowly crept back up the embankment to the warmth and safety of our car. From that day on, it has been our goal to go back to Ottawa and truly visit the Winterlude Festival.


The right place, the right time! Fast forward a decade … the Festival Nomad and I were welcomed to Ottawa on a glorious warm sunny day, cool crisp fresh air & WINTERLUDE! We had several meetings in Ottawa to attend this February, so we had the mindset to get the “biggest bang for our buck”.

We joined the timing of our meetings in Ottawa to fit in perfectly with the timing of the Winterlude Festival! As mentioned, a decade prior, the sub-zero temperatures remained in my mind.

We took one of our own “Festival Tips” and carried an empty large knapsack with us for our journey. This came in very handy as we stuffed of gloves, hats and all the extra layers into the bag. Our special day started out at one of the many activities Winterlude has to offer.

Walking the Festival

After walking from the Parliament Hill we set towards the Rideau Canal. Winterlude called this Rideau Canal Skateway“Unesco World Heritage Site is 7.8 kilometres long, making it the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world (and one of the main attractions at Winterlude).”

The scene was just as we had remembered only this time there were plenty of young children and folks starting to make their way to the River for a skate.

An artist stood on the River painting an original work of art while onlookers admired. The decedent “Beaver Tails” were just as yummy as promised, hot crisp gooey cinnamon bun grilled to perfection.

We continued our day wondering through Confederation Park visiting the Crystal Garden. Here we witnessed spectacular ice sculptors. They were truly breath-taking! There were over 35 sculptors to see.

The interior of a home was amazing with an “ice table top” and “ice basket of fruit”, an “ice sculpted fireplace” with a hearth so you could sit and take your picture, ice sofa and chair. I sat in the ice chair and was surprised how comfortable it was.

Travelling through the Park we saw many other types of creations. They called this area “BlizzArt” where 10 Canadian artists where inspired by the theme “Northern Passion” to express their social, cultures and environmental views.

Some of the sculptures were made of hockey/figure skates and hockey sticks and gear called “Ice Hockey Trees” by Liz Pead, the “Lost Mitten Mountain”, by Karina Bergamans display, “Pharaohs” by Nicole Dextras, a clothing display set in massive ice blocks, made of ice, fabric and rebar.

We watched in awe as the ice carver sawed their way through massive ice blocks. The Festival Nomad told me that the clamps they were using to move these huge pieces of ice, he and his family used “back in the day” for their day to day living.

I found it amazing to watch the saw go entirely through the ice and still be able to see the saw the entire way through, unlike a piece of wood where you would not be able to see the blade.

What was very enjoyable this day was taking the time to sit on a park bench and listen to the soft but fun music being piped over speakers throughout the park. From soft jazz, French soft blues, and more. We took the time to soak up the sights, sun, smell and sounds.

And that is what Winterlude is … an accumulation of talent, skills, community, visitors, excitement, beauty, sights, smells and sounds… and the Beavertails!!!

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