Past Mr. and Mrs. Winter Festival titleholders honoured

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Matt Gardner
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The Prince Albert Winter Festival Society has officially recognized the men and women who served as its public face throughout the years.

To help mark the 50th anniversary of the festival, organizers on Monday honoured all those who have previously served as Mr. and Mrs. Winter Festival, the official ambassadors each year for the event.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is just stop and remember the first 50 years, because you don’t get to 50 years without years one through 49 also being important,” winter festival president Darrell Prokopie said.

“We wanted to honour and acknowledge all of those that have been chosen to wear the hat and sash since 1977 and just say thank you -- not only for what they’ve done for the Prince Albert Winter Festival, but also the contributions they’ve made to our city … They’re all community builders in some way, shape or form.”

Individuals are awarded the title of Mr. or Mrs. Winter Festival following a process in which members of the community nominate those they think deserving of the honour.

All former Mr. and Mrs. Winter Festival honourees were invited to attend Monday’s social gathering at the Prince Albert Heritage Senior Centre, which included brief presentations from Prokopie and winter festival board member Bill Norman.

As part of the anniversary celebration, rather than crowning a new couple, all former Mr. or Mrs. Winter Festival titleholders are eligible to serve as the event’s official ambassadors this year.

“They’ll all be involved in and around the winter festival in various events over the next 13 days or so, and you’ll see the fur hats and sashes at every event you go to,” Prokopie said. “We’ll have a good sampling of the past Mr. and Mrs.”

With many of the titleholders already well-known to each other, the Monday social served as an opportunity to reminisce about past years.

Mrs. Winter Festival 2002 Bev Klarenbach recalled how busy it was running from event to event that year, which made the festival feel longer than it was for her and husband Carl (aka Mr. Winter Festival 2002).

We wanted to honour and acknowledge all of those that have been chosen to wear the hat and sash since 1977 and just say thank you. Darrell Prokopie

Yet her memories of the experience remained wholly positive.

“It was a very good project,” Bev said. “There’s so much to learn and so much to see and to take in everything, it just makes you part of Prince Albert.”

“I don’t ever want to leave at Winter Festival time, because it is so much fun and people just don’t realize what they’re missing,” she added.

Her successor, Mrs. Winter Festival 2003 Helen Marcotte, had a handy analogy for the experience.

“When it happened, I said at the time -- it’s like going on a really good holiday and getting to sleep in your own bed every night,” she noted.

“That’s what I said at the time and I still think that way.”

Helen and her husband Louis (aka Mr. Winter Festival 2003), who have lived in Prince Albert since 1954, noted some of the changes in the festival over the years.

Aside from a change in the music, which was originally pure country and western, Helen suggested that attendance at the festival today is lower.

“We used to go to bring our kids to the hall and there’d be people lined up around the block waiting to get in,” she said.

“Local entertainment was a lot more appreciated than then now … Some people still enjoy it, but there’s not as big a crowd as there used to be,” she added.

Mrs. Winter Festival 2012 Iris Clark shared memories of working security in -30 C temperatures at the 1977 winter festival.

She and her husband Ken (aka Mr. Winter Festival 2012) intend to visit several events as ambassadors at this year’s festival, but on Monday evening were perfectly content to sit back and enjoy the company of their fellow honourees.

“It’s wonderful to see them, because we’ve gotten to know each other over the years now and it’s been a great experience,” Iris said.

Organizations: Prince Albert

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