Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
While the weather leading up to this past weekend's Stratford Winterfest may not have been cold enough for organizers to build an outdoor skating rink as hoped, there were still plenty of frosty fun and games to entertain the hundreds of families that attended.
Just two hours into the festivities Saturday, kids were already lining up for the chance to take a spin in the snow on an authentic dog sled, provided by Moonsnoe Kennels. While the attraction was cancelled last year after the snow all but disappeared for Saturday's festivities, this year the Alaskan malamutes were right at home.
Those choosing to bypass the line made their way to one of this year's new activities like the Little Tracks traveling petting zoo, the large inflatable maze, slide and obstacle course, and the "Mighty Machines" display, where they could get a closer look and interact with a fire truck, police cruiser, cement truck, and other heavy equipment.
"We're disappointed we couldn't do the rink, but we can't talk about the disappointments when everything else is going so well," MJ Thomson, a member of the event planning committee, said Saturday afternoon.
Watching her son Caeden, 5, play a round of mini golf, mom Alisha Pol said her family always looks forward to Stratford Winterfest, and noted she was impressed by just how many activities organizers had been able to put together.
"There's so much to do. I really like the variety this year," she said.
Bundled warmly, Pol added the weather was just about perfect.
"It's cold, but it's supposed to be, it's winter," she laughed.
The event's main outdoor entertainment was provided by juggler Jason Henderson, who goes by the stage name Kobbler Jay, and three performers from the Hercinia Arts Collective, whose act combined aerial, dance, and acrobatics with theatre.
Taking a break in between shows, Emily Hughes from the Toronto-based company said bringing the multi-disciplinary show to Stratford had presented its challenges.
Designed for indoor venues, she noted the group had to adjust its act to to take into account for the weather and some less than ideal stage conditions. Still, she said they were glad to be a part of the unique event.
"We're making the best of it and doing what we can do," she smiled. "It's a lot of fun out here."
Having experienced a few years where snow was hard to come by, organizers this year were sure to plan for anything. That meant not only a full schedule outdoors, but indoors as well. There was fashion show, badminton club open house, movie night, teen dance, comedy show, pancake breakfast, and murder mystery dinner theatre.
Families could also visit the marquee in the Festival Theatre, where Tim Hortons was serving hot drinks and kids could colour, get their face painted, watch a movie, or try on some Stratford Festival production hats.
"There's a little bit more going on (in the marquee) this year because it does get a little cold out here," Carys Wyn Hughes, another member of the Winterfest planning committee, said.
With an estimated 5,000 people attending over the weekend, Wyn Hughes added Winterfest wouldn't be the success it's become if not for the many sponsors whose contributions make it possible to bring in some of the entertainment. She also credited the planning committee for their hard work over the many months leading up to the weekend and the roughly 100 volunteers who either signed up in advance or showed up during the event offering to help in any way.