Despite what you may think after this past month’s cold spell, there’s an appetite that’s been steadily growing in the city to celebrate the white, snow-laden season. Other “cold” cities already do this very well. Winnipeg has the Festival du Voyageur, Quebec City has Carnaval, Ottawa has Winterlude, Edmonton has its Deep Freeze Winter Festival, and so on and so forth. It’s time us hearty Reginans once again celebrate our region and our winter season! This year, it will be a lot easier. For the 14 or so years now since the Waskimo Winter Festival’s absence, murmurings of its return have been heard off and on. I’ve heard them firsthand. The festival from those who have experienced it has been missed. Since the announcement of Waskimo’s return for Family Day on February 20, 2017, the community has been vocal with their excitement. The festival started out in 1975, and at the time was headed up by media such as radio station 620 CKCK among others. Media worked closely with both volunteers and the Wascana Centre Authority to host the family friendly event up until 2003. [caption id="attachment_16404" align="aligncenter" width="270"] Waskimo outhouse race[/caption] Waskimo traditionally featured activities which showcased the beautiful park and allowed the community to have fun while enjoying time out on the ice and in the snow. In the past, these included skating, skiing, the Penguin dip, dog sled races, outhouse races, snowshoeing and tobogganing to name a few.
The festival saw an abrupt pause as the committee ultimately disbanded around the time the “Big Dig” (which deepened beloved Wascana Lake) took place. However, the love of Regina’s authentic winter festival wasn’t forgotten and its return is highly anticipated.
Starting out with the festival as a chairman in 1984, and back as both a promotions volunteer and non-profit committee member, Jim Aho has been helping the festival gain momentum. “It’s a GO! We’ve created so much buzz. It’s our first time back and people are excited!” Says Aho. [caption id="attachment_16406" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Waskimo Jim[/caption] Reflecting fondly when asked what Waskimo meant to him personally, Aho shared, “I always appreciated the energy, the fun and the genuine community spirit. Waskimo has always been a grassroots event.” The ability to host an outdoor winter event makes sense considering where we live. “We are a winter city,” shares Aho. “If you embrace winter, it can be fun.” In addition to residents who feel nostalgic for the festival, there’s a whole host of new people (and generations) who have yet to experience anything like this in the city. “Over the past 14 or so years, a generation of kids has grown up without knowing what Waskimo is,” Aho explains. “I think for all of Regina; all of the new residents who have arrived here, it’s an opportunity to get bundled up, dress up the dog, dust off the toboggan and come out onto the lake. We have a beautiful space to use. You can’t beat Wascana Park!” [caption id="attachment_16407" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Family Fun, Waskimo, February, 1982[/caption] This year’s event will take place east of the Broad Street Bridge and will also feature an indoor children’s carnival in the Conexus Arts Centre. So, in the event it’s a chilly one, rest assured there will be a spot to warm up. Inside a children’s stage, art stations, dog shows (by KAOS), musicians, buskers, photo booths and more will be on hand to entertain. Kids can enjoy visits by storybook princesses and superheroes. Outside many familiar events will return such as the highly anticipated signature event Hole-ympics, where teams of five pre-make and race outhouses on the ice. Cross country skiing, shinny, skating and new additions like sleigh rides and fat bike demos can be expected. [caption id="attachment_16408" align="aligncenter" width="450"] Sleigh Ride, Waskimo, February, 1982[/caption] “Dress up your dog as there are prizes for looking for the best dressed dog too,” says Aho. The event is for the whole family and promises to be a fun-filled day where the goal is to bring together the community while celebrating the season. A team of volunteers have been and will continue to be work hard in order to bring this winter event back to the city. Additionally, a non-profit committee has been formed and corporate sponsorship and support for the event is well underway. A Go Fund Me account has been set up so residents and the community at large can help build this event as well. Click here if you wish to donate. More information can be found by visiting Waskimo’s website. Come on Regina; let’s enjoy the incredible things winter has to offer – community spirit being one of them. I hope to see you out at Waskimo!