Winterlude looking to become less reliant on Rideau Canal

Ottawa's winter festival is branching out to other locations in an effort to be less reliant on Ottawa's signature winter attraction.

Organizers say they want to give Winterlude a more regional focus

If it's open, the Rideau Canal will likely be busy in the first few weekends of February. If not there will be new events to attend during Winterlude. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The National Capital Region's winter festival is branching out to other locations in an effort to be less reliant on Ottawa's signature winter attraction, the Rideau Canal.

Organizers say they want to have more of a regional focus for Winterlude this year.

"As the number of days on the canal get shorter and shorter and it's unpredictable... we've had to look at other ways to make sure that we have predictable events," said Andrew Campbell, the assistant deputy minister of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Assistant Deputy Minister of the Canadian Heritage Department Andrew Campbell said they wanted to give Winterlude a more regional focus this year. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

The department has been adding Winterlude activities to the Canal in recent years, such as ice dragon boat races and server races.

But warm weather has also caused event changes and cancellations the last two years. Last year the canal was only open 35 days for skating, according to the National Capital Commission.

That's why organizers are looking to branch out from the three traditional sites: the canal, Snowflake Kingdom at Jacques Cartier Park and Confederation Park.

"We're moving things into some of the neighbourhoods where traditionally we haven't been," Campbell said.

There will instead be "a more urban experience" in places such as Sparks Street, the ByWard Market and the Glebe, where activities can go ahead no matter the weather conditions, Campbell said.

"A lot of the activities can go ahead snow, sleet, hail [or] rain."

Some events moving

Campbell insisted the typical events planned for the canal will still go ahead.

"People love those elements so we're not messing with those but we're adding."

But some events, such as the annual ice carving competition, are being moved. Traditionally held in Confederation Park, this year it will find a new home on York Street in the ByWard Market.

Campbell said the park will still be home to various light displays.

The department says they are also aiming at making the 41st edition of Winterlude more diverse.

It points to a powwow at the Canadian Museum of History the afternoon of Feb. 3 and a partnership with Capital Pride for a "Winter Pride" event on Sparks Street the next weekend.

Organizers also plan on turning the Glebe into "the snowman capital of the planet" for its new Snomania event.