40 Years and We STILL Love Our Winterlude!

Lordy, Lordy, look who’s 40!

We’re not busting out the ruby red for you, Winterlude, because, as always, you’re all about the winter white. Ottawa’s festival dedicated to all things snow, ice and sub-zero (you know, in case you didn’t step outside today) opted out of purchasing a sports car and hair-dye for their 40th but they did add a few new features to spruce up the place.

First, the bad news. A rodent in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania has seen its shadow and –with a degree of scientific accuracy the best of meteorologist and Farmer’s Almanac writers the world orver dream of possessing– has predicted six more weeks of winter. For Ottawans that means bundle up, folks!

Then again, it is called WINTERlude!

Those who await the sizzling summer return to hibernation. Those who can only chillax when the temperature is frigid enough to randomly have appendages drop into snowbanks, the festival you love is here with plenty of maple syrup, sculptures and, oh yes, the Ice Hogs!

"It is with great excitement that Canada's Capital Region readies to host a milestone edition of this much-loved winter celebration,” proclaimed The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage from a beach in Cancun.

(We kid! We kid!)

 “Visitors can look forward to wonderful activities that highlight our country's nature, climate and culture. I invite everyone to join in the excitement,” she continued. “Come out and skate, slide, embrace the beauty of the ice and snow sculptures—and say hi to the famous Ice Hog family!"

Winter haters please note: the Ice Hogs may be groundhogs. Please don't track them down for questioning. Wait, are they? They’re not hogs, on that we can be clear. They do appear to be some form of giant Koala although legend does tell they reside in the Snowflake Kingdom which we’re pretty sure is nowhere north of Tasmania. Another fun fact, while the adults of the family remain nameless the two ageless twins are called Nouma and Noumi.

Along with the usual appearances by mom, pop and the Ice Hog twins, those who’ve attended the festival before can of course expect to hear the rev and wail of saws cutting through ice as the centrepiece of the event continues to send chips and snowdust clouds of white all over Confederation Park. You want another fun fact? Ya', you do! Though Winterlude is turning 40, this is only the 31st time the International Ice-Carving Competition has wowed crowds sending at least a few people each year to attempt smaller feats of art inside of their freezers.

So, what’s new?

Well, first off, organizers opted to move the entire festival to a Mexican resort this yeah. Woo hoo! Break out the bathing suits and drinks with tiny umbrellas! No, wait, I got the wrong memo. Wishful thinking, hibernators, but there has been a bit of relocating. The Snowflake Kingdom, home of ice slides, ice sculptures, and Vanilla Ice (okay, maybe not that last one), is moving on up to the North side of Jacques-Cartier Park. Plenty of Nordic activities for the family will abound.

Over in Confederation Park we’ve got The Face, a huge 10-foot sculpture that will portray various animations over the course of the fest. Far more enjoyable, or freaky depending upon how you look at it, will be the ability for visitors to project their own faces over the crowds. If you’ve ever wanted to see your mug 10-feet tall and frozen in a block of ice, this is your year!

Of course the other big winter event is taking place over in Pyeongchang, South Korea this year and Winterlude has given you a way to cheer on our Olympians in the form of the Go Canada Zone.

Returning this year is the Ice Dragon Boat Race, an annual event in its infancy compared to the 38 times beds have rolled up Dows Lake for the Accora Village Bed Race for Kiwanis. The Winterlude Triathlon is back too. A far more curious comeback, however, is the Waiters’ and Waitresses’ Race on Ice. Once a wild event during Winterludes of old, this contest pits hotel, restaurant and bar staff in a race down the Rideau Canal Skateway while attempting to balance trays piled with dishes. Probably easier than happy hour but it takes much skill to not send it all crashing while dashing.

Unless canceled due to Sub-Zero weather (hey, it happened!), the Sub-Zero Concert Series is back with performances by Canuck country star Aaron Pritchett, a blizzard of DJs and Toronto singer Francesco Yates. The event kicks off with a celebratory 40th birthday bash tonight hosted by comedian André-Philippe Gagnon.

The theme for the 40th edition is "I love MY Winterlude!" and, let’s face it, we gotta’, right? Any festival that brings out these crowds whilst they stave off frostbite has got to be a winner. So fuel up on maple, grab your favorite toque and layer up for the next 40 years of Ottawa’s annual winter wonderland!