Nunavut capital’s Toonik Tyme festival ends on a high note
“We got through it all”
The dogs are back on their lines, our ears are ringing and everyone’s belly is full of country food, so that can only mean one thing: the end of Iqaluit’s annual Toonik Tyme festival, which wrapped up April 23, its last day.
But there was another uncelebrated “last” following the weekend—the departure of the Toonik Tyme Society president and one of this year’s sole organizers, Travis Cooper.
“Been a lot of fun, but my four years has been served,” Cooper wrote on Facebook after the last scheduled Toonik Tyme event, a snowmobile drag race, ended April 23.
“All in all, I can’t wait to attend next year’s festival with my daughters. Best of luck to the next board or whomever takes over.”
Volunteer burnout, an under-strength board of directors and a shortage of organizers meant the bulk of this year’s work landed squarely on Cooper’s shoulders.
As a result, this year’s Toonik Tyme was a streamlined affair, dropping popular events from other years like the fishing derby or the gag-inducing Fear Factor competition.
But there was still plenty on offer.
The week’s events started at the city’s new aquatic centre, which hosted a cardboard boat race April 20 that tested the mettle—and buoyancy—of the few teams that entered.
But if there was any event that captured the city’s attention, it was the return of 80s rockers Northern Haze, who played a fast-and-loose set to a sold out crowd at Iqaluit’s Legion, April 21.
It was such a busy night that many ticket-holders were forced to wait outside as Legion staff frantically decided what to do with patrons who had arrived earlier in the evening but hadn’t bought a ticket.
Anyone who missed out was treated to a free encore performance by the Igloolik rockers the next day, during a Qikiqtani Inuit Association-sponsored feast at the Curling Rink.
Hundreds of people showed up from the Toonik Tyme crafts sale at the Iqaluit Curling Rink Saturday, April 24, with an overflow of customers waiting out on the street for a chance to enter.
Items on sale included a wide variety of sealskin items, from a white pair of sealskin mittens made by Emily Akavak-Hanson to headbands and parkas from Victoria’s Arctic Fashion, and ulus of many sizes and shapes by Mosesie Lewis, some with coloured wooden handles.
Three generations of Gordon women also took separate booths at the fair: Ilisapi Gordon with handmade ulus and jewellery—Gordon’s mother Maggie Gordon with slippers and mittens, and Gordon”s daughter, jeweller Lavinia Van Heuvelen, with her work.
And Suny Jacobs, director of the Qimaavik shelter, brought mittens, brooches and intricate beadwork made by a woman in the shelter.
Many women in the shelter made items for sale at the arts and crafts fair: they would receive the money for items that sold, Jacobs said.
Many came to the slope near the Nunavut Court of Justice and across from the Aquatic Centre to watch seven teams of two build igloos during the afternoon of April 22, at an event hosted by Adamie Itorcheak and Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Paul Okalik.
Within 40 minutes of the start time, Louis-Philip Pothier and Martine Dupont from Inukpak Outfitting and Solomon Awa and Paul Irngaut had nearly finished with their igloos, carefully carving out and stacking the blocks of snow.
The Inukpak team finished first, picking up a pair of round-trip-tickets from Canadian North, while second-place Awa and Irngaut won a selection of equipment—and $500 for making the sturdier igloo, as Awa demonstrated by lying on top of his, with his arms outstretched.
Cancellations due to weather the previous weekend saw many events rescheduled for the April 22, including a 35-kilometre dog team race on the sea ice and uphill snowmobile races.
“It’s always a little more difficult having to go ahead and work with inclement weather, but you work with what you got and try for the best,” Cooper told Nunatsiaq News ahead of Toonik Tyme’s closing ceremony and feast at the Iqaluit curling rink.
“Having to go ahead and put two Saturdays into one was a bit much, but we got through it all.”
Volunteers, he said, will always determine the success of Iqaluit’s annual springtime festival.
“They are the backbone of the festival itself. We wouldn’t be able to host the events without them.”
With files from Jane George