Ahh February. Love is in the air and you can almost reach out and touch spring…before she snatches her hand away and tosses up another blizzard. This time of year always reminds me of one thing (besides Jamaica). The Winter Carnival.
When you think of a carnival, you think of summer and roller coasters and sketchy characters, certainly not snowmobile racing. If you grew up in a small northern logging town, however, you no doubt had a Winter Carnival. Social event of the year, it was. A whole community came together to celebrate the fact that we are frozen solid for 6 months of the year. May as well rent the hall and have a thing, eh? I suppose it was an offshoot of many of the pioneers who had settled there from Quebec, where the carnival is a massive winter celebration. Complete with a large creepy snowman who is seemingly everywhere. That crazy BonHomme!
The winter carnival had many, many events packed into a single February weekend and I remember a few of them quite vividly. Aside from the obvious hockey tournaments and curling bonspiels, there were the lumberjack events like the Cherry Picker contest (I had no idea what that was, but what a great name, no?) I think the contestants would attempt to show off their heavy duty machinery prowess by picking up an egg off of a tree stump using a logging grapple hook or some crazy thing. Artists would carve various things out of blocks of ice or wood using nothing but a chainsaw. “Look! It’s a squirrel...or a beaver...or a coffee pot, I'm not sure." You can only get so precise with a power saw. Then there would be the trapper’s events like snowshoe races and tea boiling contests. Knee deep in snow, we all had a blast.
Weeks before the event, tickets would be printed with the photos of six teenagers vying for the coveted title of Carnival King and Queen. On top of being able to wear the crown and cloak, they got into all the weekend festivities free of charge and had the first dance at the Lumberjack Stomp. The royal couple may as well have been Mr & Mrs Universe to me when I was small. I dreamt of the day I would stand on the red line at centre ice and receive my crown, but I think I was too lazy to sell tickets when the time came.
The whole weekend was kicked off with…yes, the ICE SHOW, a figure skating spectacular! In our minds, it was like opening night on Broadway. All winter long, we had diligently practiced our routines to such great songs as “The Good old Hockey Game” and “Music Box Dancer”, depending on the year’s grand theme. The night of nights would arrive with much pomp and circumstance. Either it was 40 below or melting. No moderate weather was possible during the third weekend of February; this is just how it was. I would don my newly polished skates and my fortrel dress trimmed with Christmas tinsel and off onto the ice I would go to perform my 8 waltz jumps, usually well ahead of the music. As I skated by my family and friends in the bleachers (usually near tears as I had most likely already fallen down at least twice by that point) they would cheer loudly. I would end with a dramatic one foot spin, wave to the adoring crowd and would then in a dizzy stupor weave my way off the ice. Superstar.
We had a large scary mascot of our own to rival BonHomme. His name was Leo the Moose and I was terrified of him until I was about 10 years old. He insisted on skating in the “Grand Finale” with us every year at the ice show. I made sure I was at the opposite end of the can-can line, lemme tell ya.
So many great memories of life in a northern town. When I think back to the community spirit required to pull together something like that, I wouldn’t trade growing up in the bush for an all-inclusive two week vacation to Jamaica. Anyone know where I can go watch an amateur ice show?
|Me in the 1982 Ice Show. haha|