Iqaluit's springtime festival was less than spring-like, but that didn't keep the crowds awa
Thrills and chills of T-t-t-oonik T-t-t-yme
It probably would have been too much to expect a reprise of last year's balmy, above-zero temperatures and unblemished sunshine for this year's edition of Toonik Tyme.
But Mother Nature certainly could have been a little more accommodating for Iqaluit's annual spring festival.
Instead, blustery winds and temperatures dipping as low as -20 C created a few headaches for organizers, forcing the cancellation of a couple of events, including the fishing derby and the seal hunting contest.
And with no seals, another fan favourite, the seal-skinning contest, was a goner too.
The hunters could have gone out in Saturday's conditions, said Archie Angnakak, president of the Toonik Tyme organizing committee. But organizers worried that a combination of high winds and tides at the floe edge could have broken loose a pan of ice, trapping hunters, he said.
"Where the hunters were going to be was at least 100 miles down the bay," Angnakak said. "That's [a] five- to six-hour drive one way. That would be quite a while to get to the hunters if anything happened."
Despite the weather, events were "well attended" Angnakak said.
Indeed, the uphill snowmobile climb, one of the best-attended events, took place during the coldest and windiest weather on Friday afternoon.
Hundreds gathered on the hillside behind the hospital in blowing snow to watch local racers rocket up the hill during the return of the event, which was cancelled last year over insurance problems.
And Fear Factor was once again a hit, as hundreds packed the Arctic Winter Games arena to watch six hardy, or foolish, Iqalummiut perform disgusting stunts for a chance to win plane tickets to Ottawa.
Nick Dunphy endured drinking a cup of blood and maggots, having his head locked in a box full of huge cockroaches and angry-looking scorpions, and an obstacle course that featured bathtubs full of rotting fish guts.
By Saturday, the clouds had lifted, albeit briefly, making life easier for dogsled racers and skijorers. Chris Debicki took home top spot in skijoring, which is cross-country skiing propelled by a dog tied to the skier's belt. Lynn Peplinski won the dogsled race.
While the skies returned to overcast by the afternoon, it didn't stop dozens of Iqalummiut from taking part in outdoor games in front of Nakasuk School as kids swarmed a stand dishing out huge pink puffs of cotton candy.
And for the 43rd year in a row, organizers named an honourary Toonik. Once an honour bestowed upon visiting dignitaries – Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was once an honourary Toonik, as was Charles, the Prince of Wales – the award has gone in recent years to figures nominated by the community.
This year, Alicee Joamie was named honourary Toonik for her work as a seamstress, running a halfway house for youth and for her work helping Inuit with the justice system in the days before simultaneous translation in the courts.
"Throughout her career, and being Iqalummiut, she's done a lot for Iqaluit," Angnakak said.