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Preparations underway for Winterlude, but canal in question


Larry MacFarlane and his team continue to work away at ice blocks near the National War Memorial, turning ice into art.

“We’re building a memorial for the 1998 snowstorm that hit the eastern region of Canada,” said MacFarlane, referring to the ice storm that caused massive damage and left millions of Canadians without power in the middle of winter 25 years ago.

It's just one of the many ice sculptures you'll see at this year's Winterlude Festival, now in its 45th year. The popular winter festival returns with in-person activities for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

MacFarlane, who came to Ottawa from Winnipeg, is also set to compete in the Ice Carving Championship this weekend on Sparks Street.

“It’s wonderful, I’ve been coming here for many years,” said MacFarlane, “I missed it last year because it was virtual. It wasn’t the same as seeing all the guys, all the competitors.”

Back for the festival is Snowflake Kingdom at Gatineau's Jacques Cartier Park. People of all ages are invited to slide down the snow slides, eat Beavertails and see the snow sculptures illuminated at night.

“Winterlude is an opportunity for visitors and people in the region to experience the joys of a Canadian winter,” said Canadian Heritage Capital Celebrations Director Melanie Brault.

In the heart of downtown Ottawa, restaurants like the Metropolitan Brasserie are also preparing to welcome the crowds.

“We’re seeing an uptick in reservations coming up this weekend,” said managing partner Sarah Chown. “In terms of staffing levels we’ll up our number in how many people are working.”

Those looking to skate on the famous Rideau Canal will have to wait, as recent warmer weather has kept the skateway closed. The delayed opening already led to the cancellation of the ice dragon boat festival.

Colder temperatures are on the way and the NCC says work continues to build the thickness of the ice. Officials are still warning people not to venture out onto the canal.

Winterlude runs from Feb. 3 to 20. Top Stories

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