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Indigenous cultures take centre stage as Winterlude 2019 kicks off

An expanded Winterlude kicked off this weekend in the National Capital Region, with thousands taking in old and new events — including performances showcasing Indigenous cultures.

Festival adds Indigenous cultures showcase, LGBTQ events to 2019 schedule

Winterlude kicked off on the weekend of Feb. 1 with a showcase of Indigenous cultures at the Canadian Museum of History. 0:45

An expanded Winterlude kicked off this weekend in the National Capital Region, with thousands taking in both old and new events — including performances showcasing Indigenous cultures.

Sunday's powwow at the Canadian Museum of History was one of a number of additions to the 2019 lineup, as the two-week festival tries to be less reliant on the Rideau Canal.

The first weekend celebrates Indigenous culture, with next weekend devoted to recognizing the LGBTQ community. 

"We really want to make sure that we see all Canadians represented in the program that we're doing," said Melanie Brault, director of major events with Canadian Heritage.

Stephanie Sarazin of the Pikwakanagan First Nation was the head dancer at Saturday's powwow, which was organized by the Algonquin Way Cultural Centre.

"To be able to dance to these songs in the middle of winter and to be able to do it here for Winterlude is ... wonderful," she said. 

Dancers perform in a Winterlude powwow as the first weekend of the annual festival gets underway. (Leah Hansen/CBC)
Stephanie Sarazin was the head dancer at Sunday's Winterlude powwow, held at the Canadian Museum of History. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

While Winterlude events have traditionally been held on the Rideau Canal and at Confederation Park and Jacques-Cartier Park, this year's festival has expanded to cover the Glebe, the ByWard Market and Sparks Street. 

The festival, which runs from Feb. 1 to Feb. 18, has also partnered with Capital Pride in 2019. An "ice cabaret" and other performances will take centre stage during Winterlude's second weekend.

The Blackbourn family enjoys the opening day of Winterlude in February 2019 at Jacques-Cartier Park. The park is transformed into Snowflake Kingdom during the festival. (Jean Deslisle/CBC)

Winterlude around town

Despite the opening weekend's snow and chill, people still headed out in droves.

Attendees checked out some of this year's ice and snow sculptures, took part in skiing and snowboarding, and slid their way through the Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park. 

In an average year, the festival sees about 600,000 visitors, Brault said. 

Children drag their snow tubes up the hill at Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau, Que. The park has been transformed into Snowflake Kingdom for the 2019 Winterlude festival. (Olivia Chandler/CBC)
Sliding down the slopes at Winterlude's Snowflake Kingdom. (Sadik Elgallal/Twitter)
A sculptor works with snow and ice during this weekend's Winterlude festivities. (Sadik Elgallal/Twitter)
Winterlude festival-goers enjoyed the outdoors this weekend at the Snowflake Kingdom in Gatineau. (Roland Bast/Twitter)