INNISFAIL – The town’s new festival to honour winter on the prairies has clearly caught on with locals.
In fact, there were many who could not get enough of the second annual Snow & Tumbleweeds winter festival that was held last weekend at the Innisfail and District Historical Village.
“We had some families stay for two hours and others came back for a second time,” said Anna Lenters, president of the Innisfail and District Historical Society. “That was great. It meant they were having a great time.”
Innisfail’s new winter celebration, a partnership between the Town of Innisfail and the Innisfail and District Historical Village, began at 11 a.m. and ran until 4 p.m. on a glorious and somewhat balmy winter day on Jan. 21.
Organizers put together a creative program that had activities and attractions for both the young and old.
There were games and crafts for children, not to mention a free tantalizing treat of maple taffy on snow from Canadian Maple Shack, which of course attracted many, many older attendees as well.
New this year were winter-season activity demonstrations of snowshoeing and electric assist fat tire biking from the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.
The demonstrations were part of the hall’s new Choose Your Own Adventure rental program.
“That makes it really easy. It actually helps you literally push the easy button to bike in the winter,” said Tracey Kinsella, the hall of fame’s executive director, of the fat tire biking demonstration. “When you get a little tired or perhaps you're little out of shape the battery will help give you a little boost.
“The fat tires stick to the snow and the ice and enables you to go in places you can never ride in the summer,” she added. “For us to be here is phenomenal. We're so happy to have the invite, and give us the opportunity to showcase another piece of the museum.”
Nearby the demonstrations was a more traditional attraction; the life of an old-fashioned fur trader.
Greg Ingram, a professional public speaker, offered his passion, knowledge and expertise on the fur trade to Snow & Tumbleweeds attendees with a display outside the village’s pioneer-era Poplar Grove log cabin, which was once used as a trading post by pioneer Napoleon Remillard and built more than 125 years ago.
“I want to have kids and adults experience the fur trade, and by coming and seeing some of the items, handling them and looking at them,” said Ingram, who was appropriately dressed with a buffalo robe for the festival. He also came with a display filled with many interesting artifacts and wood carvings that depicted life from the pioneer fur trading days.
“I tell them stories of the fur trade of which I have studied intensely for the last 25 years," said Ingram. “I love meeting the public.. And you know, sometimes adults are as much like kids when we show them things.”
And like last year’s inaugural Snow & Tumbleweeds winter festival the Calgary-based Guns of the Golden West came to offer a live outdoor theatre re-enactment of a wild, wild west gun fight.
However, instead of fighting it out at the train station like last year the scene-setter for the entertaining show was a stagecoach.
“They're going to rob the stagecoach, and save a lady; the usual country and western theme,” said Lenters before the show, which was ultimately thrilling for the large crowd that gathered to watch.
Mostly it was fun, with the actors even picking out attendees for a dance before all the wild west action commenced.
The five-hour event attracted about 400 people for last year’s inaugural Snow & Tumbleweed winter festival. The 2023 event had close to that number, which thrilled organizers.
“In our initial discussions we decided this was important because January can be a bleak and long month and this gets people out of their homes and celebrating winter,” said Lenters.
Kane Williams, the Town of Innisfail’s recreation program coordinator, agreed and added that everyone needs a reminder of the beauty of winter and the amazing opportunities the white season presents.
“We feel this is a really good mix,” said Williams. We have some amazing sweets. We have some incredible food. We have a roaring fire going on.
“We have lots of outdoor activities for people to check out,” he added. “And yes, we just think it's an amazing mix to celebrate winter on the prairies.”