Nunavut capital’s Toonik Tyme spring festival sees winter temps
Skiers, snowmobilers and bannock-makers forge on; some events postponed
As Iqaluit’s Toonik Tyme 10-day spring festival kicked off April 14, chilly—and more winter-like temperatures—over the Easter weekend caused many cancellations.
So organizers decided to postpone events, a dog team race, family mini-golf, traditional games and a seal-skinning event, to the next weekend.
But several activities scheduled during the festival’s first days went off without a hitch.
These included the opening ceremonies April 14 at the curling rink in Iqaluit that saw elder Enuapik Sageaktook lighting a qulliq and Malaya Kango appointed as Honorary Toonik for her generosity and dedication in helping bereaved families travel to attend funerals.
The Honorary Toonik serves as a chairperson of the festival, so it was no surprise to find Kango, dressed warmly in sealskin from head to toe, out April 15 for the bannock-and-tea-making competition in front of Nakasuk Elementary School.
In 1965, Toonik Tyme’s first year, Atchealak from Cape Dorset became the first Toonik of the spring festival dubbed Toonik Tyme, a play on words that refers to the Tuniit, a people who lived in the eastern Arctic before the arrival of the Inuit about 1,000 years ago, and tyme is the old English spelling for time.
In the early years of Toonik Tyme, the Honorary Toonik was often a distinguished guest invited to preside over the week’s festivities.
Past Honorary Tooniks have included former prime minister John Diefenbaker, Prince Charles, former governors general and former commissioners of the Northwest Territories, a former premier of Greenland, and a former mayor of Nuuk.
In more recent years, the honorary Toonik award has gone to an individual considered to be, “an outstanding volunteer and demonstrates exceptional community spirit”—such as Kango.
The first weekend of Toonik Tyme, which continues until April 22, brought a cross-country loppet race, with about 50 participating for various awards, including one for the best costume.
Then, despite wind chills in the minus 30 Cs, April 15 saw a variety of events including Inuktitut baseball, where you can use a bone for a bat.
And skijoring on the sea ice, with cross-country skiers pulled by dogs, brought a first place to Andrew Maher and dog Niqsiq at 10:50 minutes, second place to Lynn Peplinski and Parker, crossing the finish line two seconds later, and third place to Sarah McNair-Landry and Stubby.
Bannock-and-tea making attracted four participants who endured cold hands to make steaming hot bannock and tea.
Meanwhile, another Toonik Tyme event attracted hundreds of Iqaluit residents who lined up in the cold to buy fresh vegetables, fruits and cheeses and other producers at the curling rink’s farmer’s market organized by the non-profit “Iqalu-eat” group.
During the weekend, the Iqaluit Amateur Hockey Association hosted hockey players from around the Baffin region and Kuujjuaq for a tournament at the Arctic Winter Games arena.
The Kimmirut-Iqaluit snowmobile race was another popular event.
First to cross the finish line on the ice and be hoisted up on the air on his snowmobile was No. 24, Bobby Gordon of Kuujjuaq, who finished the 300-kilometre course in an astounding three hours and 11 minutes, picking up $18,000 in prize money.
Anura Michael came in second, with Davidee Qaumariaq in third place.
And, while cold and wind caused many events to be postponed April 16, at the Association des francophones de Nunavut’s centre, you could sample boiling maple syrup hardened on snow, one of the items served outside at the association’s “cabane à sucre” or sugar shack event.
Coming up this week during Toonik Tyme:
• April 20, a cardboard boat race during the afternoon at Iqaluit’s aquatic centre;
• April 20, “Iqaluit Idol” competition at the Storehouse bar and grill;
• April 21, the popular Nunavut metal band, Northern Haze, at the Iqaluit Legion;
• April 22, crafts fair, 10 a.m. at the Curling Rink, dog team races at 10:30 a.m. at the breakwater, mini-golf 12 noon at the Elders Qammaq, games 1:30 p.m. at Nakasuk field; and,
• April 22, closing ceremony and feast at 6 p.m. in the Curling Rink.
You can see the full schedule of events for Toonik Tyme, here.
Last year, the Toonik Tyme Society requested that the City of Iqaluit take over management of the annual event.
But the final steps leading to the opening of Iqaluit’s new aquatic centre kept the recreation department from dedicating any time to it this year.
If the city does end up taking over the festival, 2018’s edition likely to be shorter in length and will probably coincide with the annual Nunavut Mining Symposium which brings lots of visitors to Nunavut’s capital.