Silver Skate Festival shines day and night with arts and entertainment, February 11-21

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Any recurring party twists and adapts from year to year, that’s how it survives.

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But after 2021’s semi-virtual, pandemic-shrunken Silver Skate Festival, Executive Director Erin Di Loreto is happy to report that the overall schedule is seriously on the right path to some kind of normalcy.

Opening Friday at 6 a.m. and continuing through February 21, this year’s Silver Skate lineup will take place exclusively outdoors—not that bad, really, given the inclement weather forecast…unless you are a sculpture of snow.

“Mother Nature isn’t always my friend,” laughs Di Loreto. “But I’m ready for anything after last year.”

For 16 of the festival’s 32 years, Di Loreto has led this sprawling 10-day cultural whirlwind that, in terms of winter-specific programming, is unparalleled artistically, entertainingly and even pyrotechnically in Edmonton.

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Its wide array of offerings is honestly staggering: there are 79 items on its core event schedule at silverskate.ca/events, and many of them are multi-part deals under one heading.

Centered around and actually on the ice of Edmonton’s largest skating pond at Hawrelak Park, Silver Skate’s program includes snowshoeing, storytelling, personal fitness tricks and speed challenges, and even art that intentionally burns into the night.

“I’m really excited to bring live music back to the park,” says Di Loreto, noting some 24 local artists scheduled for the weekend, including Jake Ian, Nadine Kellman, Aladean Kheroufi, Melafrique, Lindsey Walker, VISSIA and Wilde Rose. Old. Tyme Fiddlers Association — full list at silverskate.ca/music.

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The musicians will play inside a tent with a plastic front, the audience outside, with fires lit for us. “One of our musicians described his stage as a hermetically sealed bubble,” explains the director. “Over the years I’ve had them play in front of a -12°C snow screen, we’ve built a snow stage with a tent on top. We will try anything,” she laughs.

“But if you come to Silver Skate, be prepared to be outside.”

The Folk Trail runs through the creek behind the Heritage Amphitheater at Silver Skate day and night.
The Folk Trail runs through the creek behind the Heritage Amphitheater at Silver Skate day and night. Photo by Marc J. Chalifoux /provided

Sculpture burns – Di Loreto calls them “our Alberta tribute to Burning Man” – is also back, as is the Folk Trail behind the heritage amphitheater in the creek bed, where a few dozen local actors in costume recount stories. stories day and night against an illuminated public art backdrop.

Di Loreto also notes that the heritage village is once again set up in full force, with programming under the name âniskômohcikewin – “the act of connecting” in Cree – which will add four snow sculptures around a central fire to the seven teams already impressive regional sculptors of the festival. hoping we don’t have too many of those 8°C spring days.

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Indigenous oral stories and traditions will be featured in the Cree Winter Camp, with stories from Elders William Sewepagaham, Elsie Paul and Francis Whiskeyjack you can already hear online at silverskate/storytelling.

We’ll also see art installations by Steven Teeuwsen, Kalli Melenius and MJ Belcourt Moses, more storytelling with Aaron Macri, and even a guy named Frisbee Bob – Rob McLeod from Calgary – who will try to break the world of “throw, run and catch ” record of 92.4 meters. He’s the one catching his own throw, PS. And on skates.

Frisbee Bob will attempt to break more world records at the Silver Skate Festival.
Frisbee Bob will attempt to break more world records at the Silver Skate Festival. Photo by Marc J. Chalifoux /provided

On the frozen big screen

Celebrating its fifth anniversary inside Silver Skate, the International Winter Film Festival is run separately by director Adam Bentley and his own board of directors.

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The festival claims to be the only free, open-air winter film festival in the world, and this is the first year that it has run for 10 nights, starting at 6 p.m., with an hour and a half of films – approximately one-quarter local, one-quarter indigenous.

Like a real Russian Matryoshka doll, this festival within a festival also picked up content from the Edmonton Short Film Festival.

In total, the IFWC program has more than 60 films, all of which are shorts with the exception of George Tombs’ documentary The Blinding Sea, which airs on Sunday. Themes for different evenings include alpine sports, global justice and, on Monday, Valentine’s Day, which opens with Early Birds, about a little penguin looking for companionship.

Also looking amazing is February 15, a selection of National Film Board classics, including If You Want to Get Married… You Must Learn How to Build an Igloo.

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As sweet as all that programming is, Bentley really comes alive when talking about what the movies are actually played on: a giant screen made entirely of packed snow.

“I met the people who run the Reykjavik International Film Festival a few years ago,” says Bentley, “and they said the only thing they regret is not having a stable enough climate to have a screen of snow.

“So I decided, why not do it here?”

Much like the snow sculptures of animals or bobsledders, the snow is first packed into shapes and then sculpted when free – but in this case shaved smooth across the front.

“The aesthetic of watching snow versus snow movies is just plain wild, you just have to see it,” Bentley says.

The director, who has a series of his own short travel documentaries running in the festival, says if he could only see one film, it would be Alone Under the Northern Lights – documentary footage captured by French filmmaker Valentin Boitel-Denyset in Scandinavia where he spent a year alone with the sky during the pandemic. It plays at 6:41 p.m. Sunday on the Monolithic Screen, near the park entrance. The full movie schedule is on ifwc.ca.

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All of this fun, of course, costs money, and the Silver Skate free entry has been hit multiple times because it was unable to have a casino fundraiser in the fall, big money from a partner who dropped out, and what will now be two straight years without beer gardens.

How you can help by donating directly to silverskate.ca/donate, or through the Silver Skate’s 50/50 festival online and onsite.

“All that money goes back into the community, paying our friends,” notes Di Loreto. “Let me tell you, I’ve received so many proposals that I wish I could activate – so hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to take these artists and give them a spot.

“I am constantly amazed by the incredible talent and skills of this city.”

Di Loreto almost starts singing his dream out loud. “If every person who got off, even every car, donated $5, what could we do…”

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PREVIEW

Silver Skate Festival

When February 11-21

Or Hawrelak Park (9330 Groat Road)

Admission Free, by donation or 50/50

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