Volunteers step up to plan Fort Smith’s Wood Buffalo Frolics

A new group of volunteers will attempt to run Fort Smith’s Wood Buffalo Frolics after the original organizer said they were struggling to hold the event.

Traditionally, the winter festival involves gatherings like a community feast, northern games, youth and adult talent shows, hockey games, dog races, bingo, and a dance.

As the CBC reported earlier this week, the original organizer said volunteers that usually coordinate those events were feeling burnt out this year by the huge undertaking of planning everything.


Despite that organizer saying the event takes “almost a year” of planning, the new group of volunteers is striving to bring together Wood Buffalo Frolics in less than a month.

Melvin Wandering Spirit, a member of that group, said he stepped up after hearing the festival was not running this year. (Nor did it take place last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.)

“It’d just be nice to have something that people can go to and enjoy outside after everything is quieting down now with Covid,” he said. “Everybody comes out for a lot of this, just for the fun and to get out and enjoy the outdoors again.

“I’d like to try and get back to what the original carnival used to be.”

Tentative dates of March 31 or April 1 to April 3 have been suggested, but Wandering Spirit said nothing is yet confirmed. He said more information will come in the next week as volunteers first need to meet, make a committee, and create a concrete plan.


He said there are 10 to 15 volunteers signed up to help and he “wouldn’t say no to anyone else that would like to help out.” The new group says it has the support of Fort Smith’s mayor, Fred Daniels, and council.

Wandering Spirit said the committee will approach the NWT’s Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment to see if funding is available. Other fundraising initiatives are expected over the next week.

He hopes to contact the community’s francophone association to see if a cabane à sucre – a sugar shack where maple syrup is poured over snow and scooped up as a treat – can appear at the event.

Volunteers are also assembling a band to host the Mad Trapper Ball.


The NWT’s public health emergency – which allowed the territory to enact restrictions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic – is set to end on April 1. Gathering limits across the territory lifted on March 1, which means events can host more people.

Wandering Spirit said he’s most looking forward to the northern games making a return.

“The northern events I’ve always participated in,” he said. “Not always all of them – I’m not much of a bannock maker – but I always like to try out for different events and just try your best.”