With Prince Albert Winter Festival buttons popping up at stores throughout the city, the weeks-long community celebration is fast approaching.
“This is the 49th annual, this year, so it’s an event that has been an integral part of the community -- not only Prince Albert, but the northern Saskatchewan community for a lot of years,” Prince Albert Winter Festival Society president Darrell Prokopie said.
“It’s something that’s been ingrained in the community for the past 49 years, and it allows a bit of a break. I think we bring some entertainment and value to the community, and help break up the winter ‘blahs,’ so to speak.”
Taking a brief break from the final stages of preparation for this year’s event, Prokopie sat down with the Daily Herald to provide insight on this year’s many events. Unless otherwise noted, admission is a $3 Winter Festival button, which are available at most retailers in the city.
Mr. and Mrs. Winter Festival – Feb. 11
This year’s Winter Festival will kick off with the crowning of Mr. and Mrs. Winter Festival.
Last year’s recipients of the prestigious title and fashionable fur hats were Ken Clark and Iris Borrowman Clark, who spent much of February touring various events throughout the city.
“They become very intertwined in the community over that time, not just the festival and its related events, but they’re very visible throughout the city over those two weeks,” Prokopie explained.
The crowning event will take place at the Seniors Heritage Centre, at the west side of the Margo Fournier Building, at 7 p.m.
Voices of the North/Northern Spirits – Feb. 14-16
The 21st annual Voices of the North musical showcase of northern Saskatchewan talent will be held from Feb. 14 to 16, beginning at 6:30 p.m. each night.
Admission will be $12 for adults and $5 for youth aged 12 and younger.
The Points Athabasca Northern Spirits Showcase will take place from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 16, featuring youth from throughout the province.
More than 100 youth auditioned and attended a two-day workshop in November, Prokopie explained. This event is emceed and organized by youth.
A Feb. 16 Voices of The North Cabaret will take place at 10 p.m., featuring Loose Stones, Just the Boys, the Outlaws, New Horizon, Last Call and Dirt Road Maniacs and a handful of special guests. Tickets to this event are $25 for adults.
All of these events will take place at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre.
Country Gospel Show and Brunch – Feb. 17
Hosted by local country musician Larry Krause, the Country Gospel Show and Brunch will take place at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre, with brunch beginning at noon and the music beginning at 1 p.m.
In addition to Krause, Nunavut born and raised SCMA Award recipient Aven Grace will perform.
Tickets are $10 for the show, or $17 for brunch and the show.
Red River Jigging Contest – Feb. 18
Its popularity outgrowing its former venue at the ANAVETS building, the Red River Jigging Contest will take place at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre, this year.
The event will begin at 7 p.m., with anyone interested in entering the contest encouraged to sign up.
Admission will be $5, though anyone 12 and younger gets in for free.
Harmonica and Accordion Demonstration – Feb. 19
Hosted by the ANAVETS Unit 222, the Harmonica and Accordion Demonstration will take place at 7 p.m. in the ANEVTS building, at 25 11th Street West.
Beard Derby – Feb. 19
Bearded individuals will flood to the Prince Albert Brew Pub to show off their face cozies during an event that will begin at 7 p.m.
Country North Show – Feb. 20 – 22
An annual centerpiece to the Winter Festival’s indoor events, this year’s Country North Show is taking on two different forms this year.
The first will be the Classic Country Show, with performances beginning at 7 p.m. every night, and the second will be the Contemporary Country North Show, which will begin at 9 p.m.
“What we’ve heard is that country music is morphing into different things, so it’s not really what some people would consider country music anymore, so we wanted to bring back a classic country,” Prokopie explained.
The 9 p.m. shows will be more in keeping to what crowds have come to expect, he explained.
Admission to the Classic Country North Shows will be $10, and the Contemporary Country North Shows will be $15. Those interested in taking in both shows can pay an admission fee of $20.
Cabaret with Kenny Shields and Streetheart – Feb. 23
Canadian classic rock radio staples Kenny Shields and Streetheart will perform at the annual Prince Albert Winter Festival Cabaret.
The Juno Award-winning group will have Saskatoon-based rock group Penny Reign join the show as show openers.
Advance tickets are available for sale at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre, at $30. After Feb. 20, and at the door, they will be $35.
Those who purchase advance tickets will be put into a draw to win a limousine ride and dinner for four to and from the show and a meet and greet with the band.
The show will take place at the Prince Albert Exhibition centre.
Pancake breakfast – Feb. 23
A pancake breakfast will take place at the Prince Albert Exhibition Centre from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Pancakes, sausages, fresh strawberries and cream will come at a cost of $5.
Outdoor events – Feb 23 – 24
The Prince Albert Winter Festival’s showpiece -- the outdoor events will return to the riverbank this year, with the exception of the sled dog races, which have been moved to their backup Marquis Road Site, near 12th Avenue East.
Extra snowfall has insulated the ice, creating an unstable and dangerous surface along the North Saskatchewan River, where the dogs were originally scheduled to race, Prokopie explained.
Dogs will race from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
At the riverfront, things will kick off on Friday night, when Scouts will lead a torch light parade from Central Avenue to the outdoor site on the riverbank, east of the Prince Albert Historical Museum.
The torch light parade will begin at 7 p.m., and will conclude with the Scouts lighting a pile of discarded Christmas trees in a large bonfire.
A fireworks display will follow -- “As good as last year’s show as in terms of fireworks, this year it’s going to be even bigger,” Prokopie said, estimating this year’s show to be 25 per cent larger.
The various outdoor events people have come to expect will take place throughout the weekend, including sleigh ride, a river hockey tournament, concession stands, snow sculptures and various other things.
The King Trapper Competition will see a dozen people compete in various events throughout the weekend, including wood chopping, snowshoe races and other things.
“That’s one of the things I think people really look forward to seeing at the festival site,” Prokopie said. “There’s always a really big crowd cheering them.”
The mutt races are another popular event, set to take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday. People are encouraged to bring their dogs of any size to see how much weight they can haul behind them in a sled.
The outdoor events will shut down by about 5 p.m. on Sunday, with volunteers immediately switching their focus toward next year’s 50th annual event.
“We want to blow it out of the water for next year, and we know that we’re going to begin in March, getting ready for next year,” Prokopie said.
For more information…
For more information on any of this year’s Prince Albert Winter Festival events, a schedule is available online, at www.pawinterfestival.com.
People can also send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone their information line at 922-3378 (FEST).
Organizers are always looking for more volunteers to help out, Prokopie said, adding that there are many areas that people can volunteer their time toward making this year’s event a success.