Great Hall returns at this year’s Snowkings’ Winter Festival
This year’s Snowkings’ Winter Festival marks a return to the Great Hall, the indoor – if still icy – venue that normally provides festival-goers with at least some protection from the cold.
Speaking to Mornings at the Cabin on Thursday, festival program coordinator Taylor Shephard said having the Great Hall back for events in March would be a “welcome return.”
The enclosed hall, a feat of winter engineering, comes with packed-snow walls, a stage and a roof.
Shephard, otherwise known as Sir Slush at the festival, said last year’s outdoor comedy night ranked among the coldest events he’s ever taken part in. There was no Great Hall for the past two years in a bid to comply with the territory’s Covid-19 regulations at the time, which placed some limitations on indoor gatherings.
With those restrictions and pandemic capacity limits lifted, visitors this March are likely to enjoy a slightly warmer festival – not just because of the ice walls. The more bodies attend, the more heat will be generated in the 200-person space.
“You gotta have the numbers,” Shephard told listeners, “which is why I’m here to tell you why you should go.”
Bill Braden, the festival spokesperson and photographer otherwise known as Freeze Frame, said you’ll still need proper winter attire even with a hall to visit.
“There’s limited heating in here,” said Braden. “It’s not going to be a place where you’re going to chuck your jacket and get out there and dance. So you know, keep your booties on.”
The festival will kick off with its opening ceremony on Wednesday, March 1 at 12pm on Yellowknife Bay, and run until March 26. Snowking will maintain his tradition of opening the festival by cutting open the Snowcastle’s doors.
The first weekend will include the festival’s seventh international snow carving symposium, featuring two local teams alongside others from Great Britain and South Korea.
Live music at the festival includes Twin Fiddles – Saskatchewan fiddler JJ Guy and Nova Scotia’s Gordon Stobbe – appearing alongside Saskatoon Fiddle Orchestra house accompanist Cathy Sproule. Shephard said Stobbe has written a theme song for this year’s festival, titled March of the Snowkings.
Also appearing this year are musical acts like Miranda Currie, Quantum Haze, Gnarwhal, Brenden MacIntosh, Prime Time Prine, Andrea Bettger, Ben Russo, Zimbabwean musician Munya Mataruse, and teenage DJ Kilo November. Comic talent includes Skye Plowman, Lawrence Fehler, Quincy Thomas and Tłı̨chǫ comedian Mason Mantla. The full list of performers and more information about all events is available on the festival’s website.
Other activities include the Frozen Dog Film Festival, in affiliation with Western Arctic Motion Pictures, and this year’s burlesque performance, titled Sizzling Soiree.
As usual, slides made out of snow will be a feature attraction of the castle.
The festival is offering castle construction tours every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 1:30pm until February 25. A reverse raffle will take place throughout the festival and Shephard said there is “still more to come.”
“We’re still working on a few things, finalizing the last few events,” he said.