Nunavut’s Toonik Tyme committee set to launch 49th spring festival
Organizers expand traditional activities, with an eye to 50th anniversary
Iqaluit’s Toonik Tyme festival is taking a step back to its roots this spring.
Organizers have lined up more traditional Inuit activities for this year’s festival, to be held April 11 to April 20, with an eye to next year’s 50th anniversary. Expanded activities related to hunting, sealing, sledding and Inuit games will recall the event’s beginnings as a celebration of Arctic culture.
“We’re bringing a much larger cultural presence into Toonik Tyme,” said Travis Cooper, president of the Toonik Tyme Society.
“Our main focus has been on trying to make sure we put on a good festival for this year, and as soon as this one’s done, we’re starting preparations on the 50th.”
“We want to make this one as strong as possible, and really push it forward so the 50th next year can just be that much more amazing,” added fellow board member and volunteer coordinator, Blake Wilson.
This season’s mild weather means the outlook is good for all outdoor activities, and even though snow is a little less abundant this year, it hasn’t affected activities so far, Wilson said.
Toonik Tyme officially gets under way with the usual all-day civic holiday, Friday, April 11, set aside by the City of Iqaluit for the festival’s opening.
Day one’s events tee off that morning with ice golf for adults at Toonik Lake by the Arctic Winter Games Arena, and continue with a family sliding party at 1 p.m. on the Road to Nowhere.
The first day’s big indoor festivities start with St. Jude’s traditional lunch at the Anglican Parish Hall at noon.
The curling rink will host the festival’s opening celebrations from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Presented by Alianait, the opener will feature shows by local musicians. Day one closes with a giant bingo at the high school.
Two of the festival’s sports tournaments — senior men’s hockey and the open basketball tournament – will already be in their second day of play on Friday.
The hockey tournament will run at the AWG from 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, through the entire weekend.
Traditional Inuit games and cultural activities will run throughout the festival’s packed schedule. Solomon Awa will direct the iglu-building contest, outdoor traditional games, and the seal hunting and seal-skinning contests.
The traditional games will feature harpoons and fish nets Awa made by hand, which will bring an added touch of authenticity to the event, Cooper said.
“All the equipment is up to par and culturally relevant,” he said.
Cooper will direct many other traditional-themed events, such as the tea and bannock contest, the fishing derby, and the giant craft sale.
Some unique outdoor events will add to the traditional ones. The first weekend, April 12 to April 13, will be thick with a wide array of activities on the sea ice and around the bay.
Saturday starts with a family-friendly geo-caching rally at the visitors centre. Organizers describe the first-time event as a “GPS-based treasure hunt race.”
The popular ski-joring race is back again this year. A combination of dogsledding and skiing, the race will kick off that afternoon, just behind the museum. A traditional dog team race, on the sea ice, opens the next day’s events.
Nakasuk School will be a centre of activity for outdoor sports and traditional contests on the opening weekend.
Broomball and outdoor soccer tournaments take place on the school grounds, April 12, followed by traditional outdoor games and activities within and outside the school the next day.
Awa will hold the iglu-building contest in the packed snow behind the Nunavut Court of Justice building April 12, and youth Inuit games will unfold at the youth centre in the AWG arena that evening.
A new addition this year will be a fear factor contest at the curling rink, April 17.
Based on the TV show of the same name, the event takes competitors through a series of tests that challenge their fears, one of which includes a “gross-out” factor, Cooper said – which includes a challenge to eat something unusual.
The curling rink will host this year’s major music shows, starting with Big Band Night on April 12.
Bluegrass band Twin River will open the big show at 7:30 p.m.. The Halifax-based rock band Halifax Pier will take the stage to perform a variety of tunes.
The show is for adults aged 19 and over. Tickets are on sale for $40 at Arctic Ventures, and $43 online.
Toonik’s final big show at the venue will be at the closing feast, April 19, featuring Pangnirtung-based accordion player Simeonie Keenainak. The event is free and open for all.
Cooper said organizers are thankful for support from corporate and non-profit sponsors within the city, who ensure the volunteer-run festival is a success year after year.
“It’s a community event, hosted and run by the community,” he said. “The more people we have involved, the better a festival we can have.”
See the Toonik Tyme festival’s Facebook page for schedules and more details on events.