Waskimo Winter Festival set to return to Regina next month

A time-honoured winter tradition is set to return to the surface of Wascana Lake next month.

Festival has been on ice for 15 years, organizers say Wascana Centre has given blessing

Hockey on Wascana Lake will be only one of the events at this year's Waskimo Winter Festival. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC News)

A time-honoured winter tradition is set to return to the surface of Wascana Lake next month.

After an absence of more than 15 years, organizers say the Waskimo Winter Festival will once again bring Regina residents outside to enjoy the great outdoors. The festival got its start in 1975, and brought residents onto the ice surface of Wascana Lake to enjoy winter activities.

"It's a done deal," organizer Jim Aho told Sheila Coles, host of CBC Radio's Morning Edition. "We've raised about $25,000 already in corporate and community fundraising, and as of today, we've launched a gofundme page."

The festival was last held in 2001, before the Big Dig, a massive project that drained and dredged Wascana Lake. During the multi-year project, the committee was disbanded, and Waskimo fell by the wayside.

However, long-time residents of the city never forgot the winter festival, and a group of die-hard volunteers have been working tirelessly to bring it back.

"I have a soft spot in my heart for the event," Aho said. "In the past three or four months, I kept bumping into people as winter approached, and the question kept popping up, 'How come we don't have the Waskimo Winter Festival anymore?'"

There will be a few changes to the festival's latest incarnation. Due to aerators that were added during the big dig, the festival will be held east of the Broad Street bridge. Wascana Centre has told organizers the ice will be thick enough in that location and will be safe.

As well, indoor activities have been added to the Conexus Arts Centre, including a family stage.

While traditional events like the dress-up-your-dog contest and the Hole-ympic Outhouse Races will return, there will not be a polar bear dip this year.

"Times have changed, and insurance companies are not eager to insure us for that sort of event," he said.

The event will be held Family Day, February 20.

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