CELEBRATE WITH US:
CANADA’S VIBRANT FESTIVALS
Canada is a country of festivals. Whatever the season, there’s a celebratory event going on somewhere. You’ll find harvest festivals in the fall, Aboriginal powwows starting in spring, carnival and ski and snowboard festivals in winter, plus theatre and music events all summer long. Here’s a sample:
IN THE LAND OF ICE AND SNOW
“My country is not a country, it’s winter.” You’d have to live in Québec to truly appreciate the famous line from French Canadian singer Gilles Vigneault’s song
“My Country” (“Mon pays”). While cold, snowy days may seem to drag on for months, that hasn’t stopped Québecers, known for their joie de vivre, from turning winter into a time for celebration. The centerpiece of the Québec Winter Carnival, a 17-day event in Québec City which begins in late January, is the magnificent Ice Palace—made from 300 lb. blocks of ice—which everyone enjoys exploring. Other must-sees include the international snow sculpture competition and the night parades. Elsewhere, check out the ice canoe and dogsled races, try ice fishing and have your photo taken with Bonhomme—the friendly snowman mascot (www.carnaval.qc.ca).
WINNIPEG’S INDIGENOUS EXTRAVAGANZA
Lively singing, dancing and drumming are all part of the powwow, along with colourful and imaginative Indigenous regalia, from the elaborate feather headdress to beaded moccasins, and the jingle dress. Every year dozens of powwows take place in various parts of the country, but the one billed as the largest in Canada happens in Winnipeg during May. The Manito Ahbee Festival presents hundreds of dancers who compete for cash prizes in numerous categories, along with award-winning drum groups from across the continent. The event also recognizes the accomplishments of Indigenous recording artists and music industry professionals from around the globe, and features a marketplace and trade show. New to the powwow is the Music and Arts Program which includes a music conference and music showcase along with an art expo and traditional art competition with quillwork, beadwork, ribbon skirts and star-blankets. There is also a square dance and jigging competition in honour of the Métis community (www.manitoahbee.com).
BOLDLY GOING WHERE NO PRAIRIE TOWN HAS GONE BEFORE
How did a quiet southern Alberta town with a population of 1,836 people become “the Official Star Trek Capital of Canada?”
It helps to have a name like Vulcan, the home planet of Mr. Spock, one of the show’s main characters. Played by the late Leonard Nimoy, as it turns out, he supported the idea. For three days in late July fans of the popular American TV series, and the franchise it spawned, flock here for the Vulcan Convention, known as Vul-Con. This year’s lineup is still being finalized, but last year’s convention included guest celebrities from all five Star Trek series. The weekend includes academic presentations, costume and trivia contests and, of course, a vendor’s room.
While there, see the U.S.S. Enterprise replica located near Highway 23, Vulcan’s space-themed water park and the spaceshipshaped Vulcan Tourism & Trek Station— a combination visitor information and Trekkie memorabilia centre, with a commemorative Gene Roddenberry plaque (www.vulcanconvention.com).
“PARTY IN APRIL, SLEEP IN MAY”
Among the many entertaining winter sporting events in Canada, nothing quite compares with the scale of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF) in British Columbia. This 10-day marathon in April doesn’t just celebrate sports, but music and art are included as well, with athletes and artists alike pushing the limits of their abilities. And it all takes place in Whistler, one of North America’s top-rated ski resorts, which was the host mountain resort of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Events feature high-intensity boarderstyle and freeski events, roller derby showdowns, and ski and snowboard competitions on big mountain terrain. It becomes non-stop entertainment when combined with concerts —from indie acts to Juno award-winners, exciting photography events, the signature Multiplicity event, and the Olympus 72
Hour Filmmaker Showdown contest for pre-assigned groups to produce short ski/ snowboard films near Whistler, which are screened and judged culminating in a grand prize winner (www.wssf.com).
FALL MAGIC IN AN HISTORIC SETTING
Enjoying the fall colours and bountiful apple harvest is all the more enticing within the setting of a 19th century village. Welcome to Kings Landing in New Brunswick. The popular Thanksgiving weekend in October is the harvest celebration—a time to participate in pumpkin carving, games of skill and chance, a turkey shoot, a Thanksgiving English-style country dance and children’s games. Victorian and Loyalist traditional dinners are prepared in select homes. Reserve in advance for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings at the King’s Head Inn. The weekend before Thanksgiving, during Apple Fest, you can join in the apple dance, help the village ladies bake an apple cake, or try your hand at Applewood carving (www.kingslanding.nb.ca).
THE PLAY’S THE THING
Cow Head, Newfoundland might normally be a blip on the map except for the fact that it is located within a national park and is host to an increasingly popular theatre festival that highlights plays with a connection to the province. The Gros Morne Theatre Festival’s eclectic program is a mix of drama, comedy, music and dinner theatre. This year’s lineup includes “Newfoundland Vinyl”—with hits of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s by Newfoundland’s biggest recording stars. A crowd favourite is “S.S. Ethie,” a true story about a ship that ended up on the rocks near Sally’s Cove in 1919. The festival runs for 16 weeks from early June to late September with 160 performances in two intimate 90-seat venues. The plays are staggered so you can see two different shows in one night, or, if you’re in town for three days, you can see all six shows. And some visitors do (www.theatrenewfoundland.com).
SEAFOOD CELEBRATION IN THE MARITIMES
Where can you indulge in 35 varieties of oysters, chow down a portion of the world’s longest lobster roll, or sidle up to a bar for an award-winning Caesar, all in one place? Try the Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival—a four-day culinary smorgasbord from September 14 - 17 in Charlottetown. It is packed with culinary demos, dining experiences, celebrity chefs, and non-stop East Coast entertainment all weekend long. Curate your own experience, whether attending one of the culinary competitions, watching some of the world’s best oyster shuckers and finest chefs competing for cash prizes, claiming bragging rights for helping make another recordbreaking lobster roll, or sampling an array of fresh local seafood from the Shellfish Pavilion. Oh, and new this year is PEI’s longest oyster bar (www.peishellfish.com).
ALL THAT JAZZ, AND THEN SOME
Ten days, some 1,500 musicians and more than 350 concerts make the TD Toronto Jazz Festival one of the country’s most exciting musical events. Did we mention there are dozens of free concerts? The music on offer is more all-encompassing than the name suggests, with other genres also represented, including blues, gospel, swing, rock, R&B, soul, hip-hop, pop, calypso, funk, big band, cabaret, and flamenco! The core of the festival takes place at Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto, but includes more than 30 other venues across the city. The festival starts in late June. This year’s complete lineup has yet to be finalized but will include Mavis Staples, Joss Stone and Gregory Porter (www.torontojazz.com).
For more information on festivals, see the Special Events heading in each of the provincial sections.
CARNAVAL DE QUÉBEC
ALLISON CROWE, NEWFOUNDLAND VINYL, GROS MORNE THEATRE FESTIVAL • THEATRE NL/PB PRODUCTIONS