Sunshine and Toonik Tyme

Annual festival fast approaching



May the sun shine for Toonik Tyme and the wind cease to blow. May the snow melt and the heat be felt. May ruby faces glow.

The highly anticipated festival, which celebrates the return of spring and is a highlight of the season for Iqalungmiut, has been celebrated with gusto since 1965.

Crystal Jones, the city’s recreation program coordinator, believes this year will be one of Iqaluit’s most popular years for tourism.

The festival officially runs from April 7 to 12, but the fun will get started a little earlier with a minor hockey tournament April 5, a community feast April 6 and the possibility of an outdoor softball tournament.

The highlight of this year’s festivities is Iqaluit-style Fear Factor, a competition similar to the television reality show in which lucky contestants get to eat maggots and jump from tall buildings.

Notorious for its insane limits of grotesqueness, the hometown version of TV’s Fear Factor will be true to its central theme, Jones promised. And given that eating caribou eyeballs isn’t considered all that gross in Nunavut, the limit will have to be set a little bit higher.

“We’re going to make sure that everybody is grossed out,” Jones assured.

She won’t reveal the two stunts six contestant will try to stomach their way through in front of family, friends and certainly foes at the Legion April 9. The winner will take home a prize worth $5,000 — although exactly what that prize will be is also top secret.

Opening ceremonies kick off at Nakasuk School April 7 with a fashion show of sealskin and caribou fashions amautis and qamiks. It’s free to register and anyone keen to enter can show off their work for the judges who will be giving away sewing machines for the best costume in each category.

The fashion parade will be followed by some northern entertainment, a warm up for Tuesday’s musical extravaganza, Northern Band Night. Performers from communities across Nunavut are flying in for the event, followed by dancing and games. It’s also a big night for sportos as the senior hockey tournament kicks off that evening.

Don’t party too much Tuesday night and be left with a hangover Wednesday or you may not be able to stomach the Fear Factor competition that night. And even if you do make it through the contestant’s retching, it’s up at 7 a.m. on Thursday to register for that day’s fishing derby.

The early bird might get the worm, but in this case, the first person to catch a fish wins a prize. Awards will also be given out to the person who catches the most fish and the largest fish.

Sharpen the ’ole harpoon because later that day there will be a variety of traditional outdoor Inuit games including the harpoon throw, honey bag throw, tug of war and whipping five cans, sack hop and net races. Then it’s back to dancing and games at the Parish Hall.

Muster up the last of your energy for Friday’s sea-ice golf, igloo-building contest and tea and bannock contest. The elders will be selling crafts that afternoon at the elders’ centre and the uphill climb finals will also take place, with the preliminaries being held on Thursday.

Giant bingo is being held Friday at the high school, then a teen dance will kick the Parish Hall into high gear after the bingo winners have taken home their giant prizes.

Saturday will be dominated by the oval and drag snowmobile races, a family snowmobile rally at the francophone centre, followed by a sugar shack brunch.

The dogs will be out racing on Saturday as well. There will be outdoor games for the children and the Coca-Cola snow bowl outdoor football tournament is also going on that day at the Federal Road ball field.

The honorary Toonik will be revealed during the closing ceremonies Saturday night, followed by a ’60s-themed beauty contest, a performance by the legendary Jimmy Inch, and finally the gigantic Toonik draw.

Expect to see a few hundred extra people milling around town during the festival but thanks to the new bus service, traffic should be kept down to a minimum.

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