Winterlude was less reliant on good weather this year — but got it anyway
Events moved off canal this year, though skateway still remained a bright spot
Winterlude had near-perfect weather for its closing weekend and much of its 18-day run, but organizers say this year's festival was poised to be successful even if Mother Nature hadn't played along.
The National Capital Region's winter festival, which began Feb. 1 and wrapped up on Family Day, branched out this year to new urban settings.
The annual ice carving competition, for example, moved into the ByWard Market, while locations like Sparks Street and the Glebe also hosted regular events.
Organizers also added cultural events like an Indigenous powwow at the Canadian Museum of History and a Winter Pride event in partnership with Capital Pride.
"Winterlude wants to stay vibrant. We want to make sure that we continue to renew ourselves. So that's why we took an opportunity to look at what we could do differently," said Mélanie Brault, director of capital celebrations with Canadian Heritage.
Those decisions were partly made in an effort to be less reliant on the Rideau Canal and the whims of weather.
Three years ago, the canal was only open 18 days all winter; last year, the final day of Winterlude was drenched by heavy rainfall.
As it turned out, the weather mostly co-operated this year. The temperature throughout the festival stayed below zero for 13 days and only dipped below –20 C once.
While the canal closed for five weekdays from Feb. 4 to 8, it was open all three weekends of the festival.
"We're always prepared for whatever Mother Nature has to show us, but we've been really lucky," Brault said.
"Throughout the three main weekends of the Winterlude programming we've had fabulous weather."
There was also plenty of snow.
And while Mayor Jim Watson said all that snowfall presented challenges for the city, as far as Winterlude was concerned, it was "better than having no snow and no canal ice frozen."
"In years gone by it's been too warm, so one of these years we'll hit the balance," he said.
ByWard market boost
Both Watson and ByWard Market business owners were also pleased with the economic boost Winterlude provided.
"It was packed in the market every night on the weekend. [During] the week it was less people at night, but it was busy, all day long busy," said Claude Bonnet, the owner of Le Moulin de Province bakery.
"If someone complains this year, something's wrong."
At least one vendor along the Rideau Canal, however, told CBC News their numbers this year weren't as high since some of the festivities moved to other areas.
But Catherine Callory with Ottawa Tourism says that's to be expected.
"When you try something new, there's going to be people that love it and people that don't love it as much," she said.
"So we hope to get the information back from our different members over the course of the next week or so to hear ... everything — the good, the bad and the ugly."
With files from Idil Mussa, Radio-Canada