There will be no ice slides or fire and ice tower at this year's High On Ice Festival. The city's rec department gave a presentation to council Monday on plans for this year's event, and two of the festival's most popular features are among those not making the cut for 2021.
"Northern Health has advised us against having the ice slides and fire and ice tower because they know how popular those events are," said recreation manager Vanessa Cumming. She noted that Northern Health wanted to remove the possibilities of high foot traffic from the festival and Centennial Park.
However, the festival will go on this year, and is slated for Feb. 12 to 15. One of the highlights of the event will be a drive-through experience to view the ice sculptures.
International carvers won't be participating this year, but carvers will be brought in from across Canada to participate, and will be subject to intensive screening processes, according to Cumming.
Recreation programmer Marissa Jordan said the plan is to make the drive-through like "an amusement park theme ride, a really cool experience, not just ice, but a few other things will be added in to that drive-through to spice it up."
The dodgeball tournament, and other events that normally require a gathering of people won't be taking place either, though families will be able to participate in some of the outdoor activites already open, such as skating and cross country skiing.
There will be free swimming as well, and a chance for families to try out an escape room or bowling at a discounted price. The ice carving workshops, and mayor's challenge competition won't take place this year either.
The drive-through and ice sculpting will be filmed, so that those unable to attend can watch from their homes. There will be an emphasis placed on self-directed activities, where families can compete in ice sculpting, drawing, and house decorating competitions, among others, with prize baskets being handed out to the winners.
Given that the current PHO restrictions are only in place until February 5, Cumming acknowledged that they may be able to put some in-person events together.
"That gives us a week after the possible lifting of that order to plan some additional programs for people that might be in person," said Cumming. "We do have some things up our sleeve to throw in at the last moment."
However, planning the ice slide and ice tower would not be possible in a week's time, and there will be no congregating in Centennial Park other than the drive-through, regardless of what restrictions are in place.
"It's unfortunate that Northen Health doesn’t support some of the programs, but I think we’ll come back bigger and better next year when we’re all vaccinated," said Mayor Lori Ackerman.
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