Have you ever seen two groups of people racing deep freezers attached to skis? Don’t miss the chance to see it at the Deep Freeze festival.
Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Fete began 15 years ago after Christy Morin, executive director of Arts on the Ave, and a group of artists sat around a table at the Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse on Alberta Avenue. It was the dead of winter, and the group couldn’t help but wonder why they didn’t move somewhere with warmer winters, but then an idea sparked.
“And then as we started talking, we started saying, ‘Well, maybe we should do something cool in the winter,’” says Morin. “And then we thought, ‘What if we celebrate the Old New Year?’”
Deep Freeze takes place falls on the Old New Year, or the Orthodox New Year, each year and honours the cultures that still celebrate the holiday. The first festival took over a few plots of land on Alberta Avenue, growing to take over five city blocks. The festival has three different locations, each with its own unique programming. This year’s theme is Under the Ancient Arctic Sky.
Borden Park is the main event space where there’ll be ice sculptures and giant lantern installations of animals like polar bears, buffalo and woolly mammoths. There will also be art installations reflecting the folklore of the Ukrainian, Francophone, Indigenous, Inuit and Métis cultures. People can promenade through Borden Park on their own time from dusk to dark during the 10 day event.
The weekends at Borden Park will feature programming like the popular Deep Freeze Races. Two groups of people race each other ,with one or two people sitting in deep freezers and the other group members pushing the freezer, which sits on skis. You don’t see that everyday, but you can watch the races Saturdays and Sundays during the festival from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The second location of Deep Freeze is Pipon Village, which will have horse and wagon rides, firepits and Indigenous storytelling. Activities take place January 15 to 16, and January 22 to 23 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The third location is the Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse where you can sip a hot drink, watch an intimate concert and browse the visual art gallery curated by Edwin Aquino. The festival ends with fireworks in Borden Park on January 22 at 6 p.m.
“We need to find ways to embrace our winters,” says Morin. “Winter is probably one of our longest seasons, but probably one of the most beautiful and we should celebrate it.”
Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Fete runs from January 14 to 23 at Borden Park, Pipon Village and the Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse. Check the Deep Freeze Festival website for the full schedule of activities at each location.