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This weekend's Sundre Winterfest offers Family Day fun for all ages

Annual community event alleviates winter doldrums for both Sundre residents as well as visitors seeking to escape the city

SUNDRE – Need a break from the dreary winter doldrums?

The days might already be getting a bit longer, but there’s still quite a ways to go before spring breaks the spell. So in partnership with the Sundre & District Museum and the Sundre & District Chamber of Commerce, the municipality has lined up plenty of friendly all-ages activities for the Family Day long weekend.

Sundre Winterfest takes place Feb. 18-19 and will also be featuring the return and fourth edition of the Mountain Survivalist Competition. Provided there are enough registrations, organizers also have plans to include a new element this year with the introduction of a youth category.

“Something unique this year, is we are hoping to host an under-16 youth component with some special skills tests,” said Jon Allan, Sundre’s economic development officer, adding the registration-only event is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 18.

The main event, which takes place Monday, Feb. 19, will also see the return of judges Brenda and Dave Holder, owners of Mahikan Trails Indigenous Experiences, a company that teaches about wilderness survival. Additionally, Holder is the lead survival consultant for the TV series Alone.

“He’s been one of our lead judges since the very first Mountain Survivalist Competition happened in 2020,” said Allan.

When he spoke with the Albertan on Jan. 30, Allan said only a small handful of teams had registered.

“As in previous years, we’ve got some interest from some teams that are potentially going to come from Europe, and we’re hoping that they’re able to make it,” he said, adding past events have welcomed teams from Belgium and the Netherlands through relationships with Mahikan Trails.

“It’s always great to have folks come from far away and to turn it into an international competition of sorts,” he said.

“(But) we still have space available,” he said. “We would love as many people as possible to register.”

Of course the survival competition is but one aspect of Winterfest.

People with a penchant for ice sculptures will once again get a chance to check out several custom-made carvings that will be on display.

“As in previous years, they will be placed throughout Greenwood Campground at various sites, and they will all be lit up at nighttime,” said Allan.

“So even when Winterfest ends for the day each day, people are still invited to walk through the Greenwood park and campground in the evening to take in the beauty of the lit-up sculptures along the riverside.”

There will be seven sculptures; six of which will be regular-sized pieces while a larger, double-sized carving will provide interactive opportunities for anyone interested in taking some cool selfies.

As well, there will be live musical performances at the campground’s community gazebo from noon to 4 p.m. both days.

The four performers are: Emma Harding, an acoustic country and blues singer and songwriter of English origins who now calls Sundre home; Pip Jernigan, a modern and classic country singer and Calgary-based artist who also originally hails from the U.K.; Brayden Lowe, from Calgary, a versatile vocalist with a range and style inspired by Otis Redding and Sam Cooke; as well as Jason Rushton, a Sundre resident with New Brunswick roots who has accrued some 20 years of onstage experience performing upbeat covers of various genres.

And members of the Sundre Bike n’ Ski Club will also be at the campground offering free Jackrabbits cross-country ski lessons.

Meanwhile, over at the museum, executive director Carrie Couch said there among other activities will also be some live music as well as merchants. 

“These concerts are brought to you by local artisans and will be in our museum gallery,” she said, further adding there will also be demonstrations as well as market vendors set up around the exhibits to create a unique experience.

Across the street from the museum at the Sundre Elks Lodge hall, there will also be some fun, family-oriented activities lined up as well as a place to rest and warm up. Additionally, a wood carver will be at the museum demonstrating her craft, she said.

“Winterfest is a great opportunity for citizens to come out and enjoy, share and experience,” she said. “I personally cannot think of a better way to take a mid-winter break!”

While there will be wagon rides available offering a shuttle service between the campground and the museum on both days from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., a Red Deer-based company was brought aboard as Darryl and Donna McGregor – the couple who for so many years provided the wagon and team of horses – decided the time had come to hang up their reins, said Allan.

Another new Winterfest feature this year are some free archery lessons courtesy of Painted Warriors. Although the specific location was still be determined when Allan spoke with the Albertan, he said that would likely be in the campground’s old day-use area.

Additionally, over at the Visitor Information Centre, Mahikan Trails Indigenous Experiences will late on the morning of Sunday, Feb. 18 only be offering free medicine walks in the woods behind the berm along the brand new nature boardwalk, he said, adding anyone who is interested in participating must visit to register.

And over at the Elks hall on both Sunday and Monday from noon to 3 p.m., the chamber plans to put on a chili event, said Sarah Henn, executive director.  

“Our intent is to use the Elks Hall as a warming station and we will be providing chili by donation and a few activities for the kids to do,” she said, adding Todd Dalke – the owner of the local Fountain Tire – will be providing a video gaming station.

“We will also have a few fun crafts for the kids to do,” she said.

In other parts of town, the Sundre Arena will have some free family skating sessions from 4-6 p.m. on Feb. 18 and again from 1-4 p.m. on Feb. 19, said Allan.

Of course there’s also the brand new outdoor rink located just a couple of blocks west of the arena on the south side of Second Avenue NW adjacent the skatepark.

“A nice thing on the Sunday is that people could take in the events in the historic riverside area until 4 p.m., go for a free skate at the arena until 6 p.m. and then once the sun is down … you can go back to check out the beautifully lit sculptures along the riverside,” he said.

“The ice sculptures have been a really big draw for many people coming from far away, just to come look at them because people really appreciate beauty,” he said, welcoming one and all to drop by.

“I hope that this type of event can help add a little fun to our winter here in Sundre,” he said. “We’re excited for Winterfest to just keep growing and to keep welcoming people not just from our community but also from far away.”

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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