February 7, 2008

Edmonton on Ice

To be fair, not everything in Edmonton is doom and gloom this time of year. Edmontonians seem to try their best to make the most of the six months of cold and snow by putting on winter festivals, almost one every weekend. So far, Kevin and I have been to two, the big "Whyte on Ice" in the historic Strathcona neighborhood near the university and the smaller "118th Ave. Deep Freeze" in our own modest neighborhood of -- I'm embarrassed to say -- Rat Creek.

Unfortunate name aside, our neighborhood would appear to have several young families and even a few creative souls, at least if you judged it by the turnout at the "Deep Freeze" festival. Inside, there were exhibits by local artists and performances by madrigal singers, concession stands representing all the big neighborhood immigrant associations: the Chinese, the Indian, the Italian, the German, the Ukrainian, etc. Outside, they had an ice carving competition, sleigh rides and igloos for the kids. My favorite was the candy-colored igloo, in which the blocks of snow had been colored by -- you guessed it -- food coloring. Genius!

But the "Whyte on Ice" festival really made our neighborhood effort look puny. There was an enormous ice slide for the kiddies -- and for the young at heart, like Kevin. There was an elaborate ice maze about half the size of a football field, and at the center of the maze was a massive ice castle. Words cannot even describe how incredible the artistry was on this castle. Clearly someone was a medieval enthusiast. It had towers and turrets, machicolations, barbicans and crenelated battlements -- and that was just the outside. Inside there were thrones and torches and a full suit of armor!

But even that could not hold a flame, so to speak, to the artistry on display at the ice carving competition. Our favorites were an Inuit scene with four kids bouncing a fifth on a blanket (it almost defied the laws of physics, said Kevin) and a ten-foot sculpture of the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, whose elaborate watch chain was carved out of a single piece of ice!

My only question is: What happens to all of these sculptures after the festival ends? The festivals last only a weekend, but the snow and ice will last right on into May. They don't just leave them in the middle of the street. They must dispose of them somewhere. And I know a little blue house, that is great need of a ten-foot tall White Rabbit out front ...

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