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Deep Freeze Festival lights up winter

It's a leaner but still uplifting festival. This year's Deep Freeze started Friday and will run for 10 days.
0502 Barry Collier - Deep Freeze Festival 4 (1)
St. Albert ice sculptor Barry Collier polishes one of his sculptures for Deep Freeze, a free family festival that runs Feb. 5 to 14 at Alberta Avenue.

“I’ve been outside dusting snow off art installations all morning,” laughs Sauvé MacBean, Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Fete’s program manager.

She is completing last-minute preparations and the daily snowfalls are making her job a little trickier.  

The multicultural festival has always been about embracing winter and spreading light, colour and joy during one of the season’s gloomiest periods. 

While the outdoor celebration first started as a nod to Ukrainian, Indigenous and Francophone-African culture and heritage of Alberta Avenue, it has since grown to unite a mosaic of communities including El Salvador, Caribbean, China, Nepal and the Middle East.  

In its 14th edition, Deep Freeze offers a variety of free activities centred around the theme, The Fiddle & Fables. The free family event is strictly walkable and allows visitors to safely distance while enjoying creative storytelling, art installations, music, ice sculptures, a giant ice slide and online maker workshops. 

The cultural festivity runs from Feb. 5 to 14. Given pandemic protocols, organizers felt stretching the event from a two-day celebration to 10 days would prevent huge crowds from gathering at one time. 

This year, Borden Park is a focal point where fables from different artists, friends and neighbours within the community are presented and told through art installations, ice sculptures and lanterns. There will be three story corners in different locations spun in diverse styles. 

Three ice sculptors, including St. Albert’s Barry Collier, have decorated Borden Park with various ice sculpture clusters. One cluster is a nod to the festival’s musical ties to performing artists. 

“We have an animal band: a wooly mammoth playing a banjo, a moose playing a fiddle and a polar bear on cello,” said MacBean. 

In another corner of Borden Park is a salute to the Indigenous community with ice sculptures of a beaver, a coyote and a hare. And in the northeast corner of Borden Park is a huge screen that will display entertaining pre-recordings of local musicians from Feb. 5 to 7 and Feb. 12 to 14. 

Along Alberta Avenue, there are seven fanciful fairies waiting to be discovered as well as seven fables created as art installations. 

“Each of these fables are authentic and we spoke to community members to get their stories,” MacBean said. 

In addition, three community leagues – Spruce Ave., Eastwood and Parkdale-Cromdale – offer family skating while listening to the sounds of traditional French-Canadian music on Feb. 6, 7, 13 and 14 from 1 to 9 p.m. 

“This is a safe and fun way to observe art and talent within the community. Many of our artists live within the Alberta Avenue. It’s a great way to visit and enjoy the spirit of Edmonton in one place.” 

Although this is a free festival, donations are gratefully accepted. Donation boxes will be spread throughout the site. Cheques can be written to Arts on the Ave Society and dropped off at the Carrot Community Coffee House.  

An online donation site and extensive festival information is available at www.deepfreeze.ca