Hockey rules when a cold wind puts a damper on Toonik Tyme's outdoor events

Putting the unity back into community

By JOHN BIRD

There were times when the bay outside of Iqaluit looked like a giant, snow-covered butterfly garden – with a dozen or more kite skiers circling one another in the breeze.

The chill winds that drove many to the indoor events at Toonik Tyme this year were just what the Arctic Windriders needed to power their big, brightly-coloured kites.

They were out on the ice nearly every day during the week, in view from any spot in the city that overlooked the bay.

They may have been the most visible sign of a very busy week, one when you could join with others to:

  • race your skidoo up a really big hill – or across a flat, ­quarter-mile straight away;
  • slide your fanny down a smaller, friendlier hill;
  • ride a kicksled behind an eager dog;
  • carve an ice sculpture;
  • dance your butt off to traditional accordion music;
  • show off your finest air-guitar moves;
  • peruse (and purchase) the work of some of Nunavut's finest carvers and jewelers;
  • grow a beard;
  • sing in a choir;
  • test your gross-out threshold in the fear factor contest;
  • laugh to the tales of Nunavut's finest storyteller;
  • try your hand at building an igloo.

Hundreds of people took part in more than 60 events and activities offered across the city during Iqaluit's 44th annual Toonik Tyme spring festival this year.

Thousands more chose the less active – but no less fun – alternative of simply watching.

But a small sampling of the crowd at the closing ceremonies suggested that hockey may well have been the most popular event.

"The only thing I did all weekend was watch all the hockey games," storyteller Michael Kusugak said before going onstage to enthrall a crowd of several hundred on closing night at the Arctic Winter Games Arena.

"My nephews were playing," he added. "It was fun."

"I've been watching hockey all week. Just hockey," teenager Paul Davidee asserted.

Ainiak Kargak said he let the wind – and his work – keep him from some of the outdoor events he might have attended in other years. But he did take in the snowmobile drag races on Sunday.

And, of course, "the last couple of games of Toonik Tyme hockey."

With a three-year-old daughter and a baby in her amauti, Rachel Furey's activities followed a different theme. "We went to parents and tots, swimming, ice sculpture, the kids magic show, the dogsled races, skijoring and the library," she said.

"It's too bad the weather was cold for the kids," she added, "but it was a good Toonik Tyme. We went to something every day."

Sandy Kownak had a different view of the festival too, after serving her first year on the board.

"I felt a lot of unity in the community," she said. "People coming together, sponsoring and volunteering their time."

Her serious commitment helping organize the week-long event introduced her to "a lot of different people in a lot of different work places." It was great to see so many people coming together for a good, community cause.

"It also opened the door for people from other communities to visit us," she added. "People came from across Nunavut and even other regions of Canada, like northern Quebec.

"So it has a positive spin for community relations."

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