Once the snow falls and temperatures drop, many people head indoors and cities go into hibernation. But in Ottawa, the winter is when the city shines its brightest – thanks to a popular festival known as Winterlude.
The festival, which started in 1979, is held every February and regularly draws a crowd of more than 600,000 people. Organizers estimate that around one-third of visitors are from outside the region. This year’s activities and events will run from February 1st to the 18th and will include high-flying acrobats, snowman-building competitions, an outdoor 3D digital art projection show, and a barbershop quartet. And that’s just at one of the locations.
Natalie Huneault, spokesperson, Media Relations Services for the Department of Canadian Heritage, said the festival is a much-loved seasonal highlight in the Canadian capital.
“Visitors can look forward to wonderful activities. We invite everyone to join in the excitement. Come out and skate, slide, and embrace the beauty of the ice and snow sculptures,” said Natalie. “It is a truly Canadian celebration with something for everyone.”
Natalie said the many activities have been designed to highlight the Canadian culture and climate. All of the traditional winter and outdoor family activities will be on the schedule this year, but even more have been added. The main locations for those events include the Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau, Confederation Park, Marion Dewar Plaza and Lansdowne Park, and of course the famous Rideau Canal Skateway, known as the world’s longest skating rink.
Measuring 7.8-kilometres, the rink runs through the heart of downtown Ottawa with vendors along the sides, where you can find skate rentals and hot chocolate. Even the world-famous BeaverTails® pastries will be sold.
While thousands of skaters will be taking to the rink during the festival, the biggest draw of Winterlude has continued to be the ice carving competition. Talented artists from around the world turn blocks of ice into works of art right in front of your eyes. This year, 10 countries will participate, including Canada, Russia, Japan, the Philippines, Mauritius, Mexico, France, and Poland.
At night, the carvings will be lit up with special lighting to make them look even more breathtaking. This will be the 32nd year for the International Ice Carving Competition, and the first year it will be presented in the popular ByWard Market.
Other events at Winterlude include:
Super slides at the Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau. These slides are especially popular with families and are built to accommodate more than 2,000 sliders per hour.
Jacques-Cartier Park North will be the location for an interactive digital art projection show where artwork by mixed media artists will be projected onto surfaces, such as buildings, to create the illusion of 3D art shows.
A group of aerial acrobats from Haut-Vol Productions will perform circus-style acts that include high-flying acrobatics and diving productions. The acts will be performed on various Sundays throughout the festival. If you’ve watched a Cirque du Soleil show, you will have experienced their exceptional talents as the team creates and performs about 10 acts a year for Cirque du Soleil and Cirque Éloize.
Lansdowne Park will be a busy spot for a snowman building competition where competitors will try and beat last year’s record of 3,000 snowmen.
The OLG Sno-Bus Shuttle Service will be in operation on Winterlude weekends and Family Day to make it easy to get from location to location.