Winterlude cancels all outdoor activities due to extreme cold
Winterlude kicked off in Ottawa and Gatineau on Friday, but the extreme cold weather conditions forced the cancellation of all outdoor events on opening day.
With temperatures sitting at -27 C Friday afternoon and the wind chill making it feel like -42 degrees, the Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park, the Winterlude National Ice-Carving Championships on Sparks Street and all other outdoor events are cancelled for the day.
"Given the extreme weather conditions and to ensure the security of staff, volunteers, and visitors, all outdoor Winterlude activities held today have been cancelled. Stay tuned for updates," Canadian Heritage said on its website.
"The launch of Winterlude National Ice-Carving Championship, presented by Tim Hortons has been postponed to Saturday, February 4 at 10 a.m."
Canadian Heritage announced activities will resume on Saturday, as temperatures begin to warm up.
The Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park will open at 12 p.m. on Saturday, while the OLG Sno-Bus service will also begin at 12 p.m.
Some tourists were already walking around downtown Ottawa when it was announced Friday's outdoor activities were cancelled.
"This is my first time to Ottawa; this is the farthest north I have ever been," Mike Heuman said, visiting Ottawa from Ohio.
"This is why we came. We came to see good friends and experience winter!"
Canadian Heritage said it decided to cancel all outdoor activities for safety reasons.
"The health and safety of the folks coming out to celebrate Winterlude, but also the hundreds of volunteers and staff that put Winterlude together," Canadian Heritage spokesperson Melanie Brault said. "It is cold so we needed to make some decision so everyone stays safe."
The delayed start to the ice-carving competition left competitors sitting in the cold on Friday.
"It makes the ice really hard, we deal with it," Larry MacFarlene said. "Weather changes all the time, if you wait a few days the weather will warm up!"
Canadian Heritage says Winterlude activities will resume for the weekend, with temperatures expected to warm up to 1 C by Sunday.
"We are hoping that we are going to be open here on Sparks with the ice carving competition. Fingers and toes crossed that we will be able to open at Jacques-Cartier Park," Brault said.
The Rideau Canal Skateway remains closed, and the National Capital Commission has said it will not open for the opening weekend of the Winterlude.
"Mother Nature over the course of the last few months has been giving us a run for our money! It has been really warm in December and January and then here we are the first day of Winterlude, Feb. 3, and it is record-breaking cold," Brault said.
The national capital region's winter festival returns this weekend with in-person activities for the first time in three years.
"We're so happy to be back," Brault told CTV News Ottawa earlier this week..
"Winterlude this year in the national capital region will be running from Feb. 3 right through to the 20th, so lots of time to come out to enjoy tonnes of activities that are being planned right across the area."
The opening weekend includes the sold out show Minoshkite at the Canadian Museum of History Friday night and free tours of the RCMP Musical Ride Stables on Saturday. The ice-carving championships will kick off on Saturday at 10 a.m.
"We have 13 different duos that will start competing. They have 15 blocks of ice and 20 hours to create a masterpiece," Brault said. "This year, they're going to be given the theme of Creatures of the Sea, so giving the nod to Canada's underwater aquatic life."
The public is invited to Sparks Street all weekend to watch the ice-carving competition.
The second weekend of Winterlude will include Winter Pride and many activities that "highlight our country's cultural diversity and inclusion," Canadian Heritage said.
Activities in Ottawa and Gatineau during the three-weekend festival include:
- The Snowflake Kingdom in Gatineau's Jacques-Cartier Park
- Interactive light features, ice sculptures and performance art zones on Sparks Street.
- The ByWard Market will host sleigh rides, food experiences, interactive art installations and other features
- Interactive art installations in the ByWard Market include Sonic Runway light-art installation and Optik, the interactive art installation.
- Activities will be held at the Canadian Museum of History and the National Arts Centre
- Snowphy Trophy in the Glebe
For more information on all the activities during Winterlude, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/winterlude.html.
With files from CTV News Ottawa's Leah Larocque
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