After its opening weekend, the organizers of Winterlude say the festival has had a successful start, including the addition of a new venue.
“Overall, the opening weekend was very successful,” says Guy Laflamme, senior vice-president of Capital Experience at the National Capital Commission.
One of the major changes this year is the addition of a new official site, the Marion Dewar Plaza at City Hall, which Laflamme says he is happy about.
“There’s so much potential for this venue for the future,” he says. “The Opening Ceremony worked very well here, and now we can host DJ shows and multimedia events.”
Although some worried that the warm weather in the past weeks might affect the festival, Laflamme says the weather did not affect the weekend.
“We have become experts in facing and dealing with extreme weather conditions. We worked hard to provide the same quality of experience as other years,” he says.
The unusually warm temperatures delayed the opening of the Snowflake Kingdom at Jacques-Cartier Park by 24 hours, but otherwise, Laflamme says, it was “business as usual.”
If anything, the Rideau Canal Skateway benefited from the wet weather over the week, as the rain on Wednesday froze and provided an extra coat of ice for skaters, says Laflamme.
Tourists and residents flocked to Confederation Park’s Crystal Garden on Sunday for the 26th International Ice Carving Competition.
Ice sculptors had 30 hours over three days to complete their creations, including everything from a pair of seahorses to towering human figures.
For Cheu Ziong, a 23-year-old exchange student from China, it was her first experience with the Canadian winter.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Ziong. “It really is a winter wonderland.”
At Winterlude’s newest venue, the Marion Dewar Plaza, young figure skaters from Skate Canada took to the ice at the Rink of Dreams, performing choreographed routines to popular songs from Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Good Time,” getting the crowd of spectators moving and shaking in the snow.
Laflamme notes that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Canada’s diplomatic relations with South Korea. To honor this, Laflamme says the NCC has displayed a Lantern Garden, given to Winterlude by the South Korean Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival.
The garden includes 1,300 lanterns and is 35 metres long, and has been a very popular attraction on the opening weekend, he says.
Laflamme says what makes Winterlude work so well is the help and hard work of the festival’s more than 700 volunteers, like Jeff Joachim.
“It’s my first time volunteering at Winterlude, but it’s such a great experience. It’s only my second day and I’ve already met so many interesting people,” Joachim says.
Joachim, who works the overnight shift monitoring the ice sculptures in the Crystal Garden, says Winterlude definitely adds something extra to the usual cold Ottawa winter. “It’s a nice celebration.”
Kelsey Eagan, 21, a University of Ottawa student, took a study break to skate on the Rideau Canal Skateway, before warming up with hot chocolate and a Beavertail with her friends.
“Even though I’ve lived in Ottawa for most of my life, I always make sure I go to Winterlude. It’s a great tradition. I never miss it,” Eagan says.