How is winter celebrated in northern B.C.? With colourful ice displays and a beard-growing contest
‘It's a big splash of colour in ... a long, white and grey winter,’ says one ice artist
The bitter cold penetrating northern B.C. isn't great for water pipes or fingertips, but it's perfect for ice artists like Eliza Stanford.
The Peace Region-based artist has been using the recent deep freeze to create huge sheets of multi-coloured ice to display at the High on Ice Winter Festival in Fort St. John this week.
"It's a big splash of colour in what is generally a long, white and grey winter," Stanford said.
She's been making the stained-glass-window-like creations recreationally for several years and freezes the panes on her back porch.
"I have to wait until we get into a nice cold snap, so in the –20s C is perfect for me because then the ice freezes very quickly and it suspends the pigments in the water," Stanford said.
She then uses the colourful cut-outs to design scenes in the snow. Some of her past creations range from birthday cakes to ski hills to circus tents.
"It's so much fun because every year I get to do something completely different. It's quite unique," she told Carolina de Ryk, the host of CBC's Daybreak North.
International community of ice
Other ice carvers are coming from places including Russia, Poland, the U.S. and other parts of Canada to work on cold-temperature art pieces.
"I feel so lucky to play a tiny little role in this incredible international community," Stanford said.
"It just motivates me to do something every year."
Stanford's work is one of many displays at the festival, which includes other activities such as ice slides, fire shows and a beard-growing contest.
Throwback to the '80s
This year's festival is a throwback to decades past, said Fort St. John's recreation programmer Marissa Jordan.
"[The theme] is return of the Mukluk Rendezvous," she said.
"That was the original winter carnival celebration in the Fort St. John region that started in the early '80s."
That's where activities such as the beard-growing contest come in — not the typical community festival event.
It used to be quite an "elaborate" contest, Jordan explained, where men would start growing their beards out after Christmas. They had roughly an eight-week window to produce the best one and were judged in six different categories.
This year's is a bit different.
"They can enter in this with as little or as much facial hair as they want," Jordan said.
"From my understanding, they're doing a sort of Applause-O-Meter style judging where it's the people's choice."
The festival opens Friday and runs until Monday.
With files from Daybreak North