Edmontonians storm ice castle at grand opening
Frozen spires and caves return to Hawrelak Park for second year running
Snow crunches underfoot as hundreds walk between the frozen spires of Edmonton's ice castle. Tickets for the grand opening of its second year in Hawrelak Park sold out on Friday.
A fountain dominates the centre of an icy courtyard, ringed by thick walls of ice. Visitors peer down from a raised walkway, watching as children race down a frozen slide below.
"You can just see their imaginations going wild and we want to capture that," says Kyle Standifird, one of the castle's co-owners.
"We want to create something where you feel like you're separate from outside these walls."
Dozens of sculptors have been working since early December, freezing more than one million litres of water into towers and archways.
This year's castle is about twice the size of last year's installation. The frozen structure covers more than 6,000 square metres.
A cold snap just before Christmas was ideal for expanding the castle walls, according to Standifird, though he says some of his staff disagreed.
"There were a few people who decided it was too cold, they didn't want to keep working. So they didn't show up," he says.
This week's milder temperatures came as a boon to those workers, though Standifird says it has slowed castle construction.
"When you're dealing with mother nature, it's just unexpected and you just have to take it as it comes and do the best you can," he says.
John and Miling Auyung from Hong Kong say the weather is too cold either way. The two are visiting family in Edmonton and braved the snow to see the ice castle with their granddaughter.
"It's an amazing experience because in Hong Kong we can never see this kind of festival," John Auyung says.
"We have no snow, no ice in Hong Kong. Never. So this is very different," his wife adds.
Siblings Liam and Lauren Madge are first-time visitors from Lethbridge.
"I like the lights," says Lauren Madge, 7, as she points to the flashes of colour that glow from behind icicles.
"It looks like you're in a glacier," adds 10-year-old Liam Madge. "It's sort of like like walking in a cave with big icicles and a fun slide."
Tickets for the ice castle are available on site, though Standifird recommends booking them online several days in advance.