Fiddle Show kicks off 2019 Winter Festival this weekend

John Kushneryk to make long-awaited return to the stage

Former fiddle show champion and long-time music judge John Kushneryk speaks to reporters at the Alfred Jenkins Field House on Tuesday. Kushneryk was named the 2019 Prince Albert Winter Festival honorary chair. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Organizers of one of Prince Albert’s oldest winter traditions are putting the finishing touches on preparation for the annual Prince Albert Winter Festival.

The festival, the largest of its kind in western Canada, has been running since 1964.

“It’s going to be a great time,” said Winter Festival president Barry Mihilewicz.

“We’ve got a little something for everybody and a lot of entertainment. Lots of ways to keep yourself warm while frigid temperatures outside are curling us up.”

This year’s lineup features some new events and some old favourites and gets started with the fiddle show Sunday night at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre.

“This year there is an astounding array of talent,” Mihilewicz said.

‘We’ve got John Kushneryk coming back, making a long-awaited return to the stage.

Kushneryk’s performance has been a long time in the making and was determined before he was named 2019 Winter Festival honorary chair. Kushneryk won the old-time fiddling contest many times in the festival’s history, later going on to organize the event and winning the western Canadian fiddle championships four years consecutively.

“He’s basically hung up the bow for the last 10-15 years, but is making a triumphant return to the stage Sunday,” Mihilewicz said.

The show is being produced by Kerri English, who is also performing herself. Other talents in Sunday’s show include Anna Bekolay and Rodney Krip, who along with Tyler Kushneryk, was two-thirds of a band called the Cleavers, who are really well known in fiddle circuits.

‘There are some very, very talented people,” Mihilewicz said.

“The lineup is excellent and should be a lot of fun.”

That show gets started at 7 p.m., and tickets are $15 plus a Winter festival button.

Mihilewicz also highlighted a Monday night event, returning for a second year but with a new twist.

The Prince Albert Winter Festival Comedy Show is set for Feb. 11. Local comic Kelly Taylor is returning as the headliner, but the opener will be the winner of a contest held last week, the first annual Funniest Guy with a Day Job contest. Lyle Kaye was the winner. The comedy show is set for Monday evening at 8 p.. at the Rock & Iron Sports Bar at the Prince Albert Golf & Curling Club. Admission is $25 plus a button.

Another new event for 2019 is the Youth Extravaganza. The variety show highlights local young talent and will be held at the Rawlinson on Feb. 17. It was inspired by the Voice of Prince Albert, an event that won’t be held this year because the organizer of the show had other commitments.

It’s a variety show with all youth, including a youth band and youth emcees, the whole bit. We’re very excited about that,” Mihilewicz said.

“The youth show is going to be early, really excellent.”

Returning favourites such as the Country North show and the Rock Show Experience are back. The Country North Show has been expanded to three nights – Feb. 12-14 at 7 p.m.

The Rock Show Experience will be held on Feb. 15 and q6 at the Prince Albert Exhibition, with the new cabaret, a fundraiser for Telemiracle, following the show at 10 p.m. on Feb 16.

“If the last (Country North Show) rehearsal I was at is any indication, it’s going to be an excellent show,” Mihilewicz said.

“Some new performers,  young, old, a good mix and some really, really great songs.”

The Cabaret is being put on in partnership with the Kinsmen Club. It came out of the Winter Festival Board and the Kinsmen looking to work together to combine their efforts instead of hosting competing events.

“The Kinsmen Club in the past has run a Telemiracle cabaret typically on one of the weekends in February,” Mihilewicz said.

 “They approached us and said, we do something at the same time as you’re doing something … let’s work together and see what happens and we’re very excited about that.”

In terms of outdoor events, blocks of snow have been dropped off at the corner of Second Avenue West and 15th Street, at the Art Hauser and at the tourist information centre, as well as at the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse. Over the next few days, sculptors will be forming the blocks into sculptures, spreading the snow carvings across the city. If all goes well, one might also be done in front of City Hall in Memorial Square.

“We’re hoping to expand the snow sculpting this year to have a few more around town for people to look at,” Mihilewicz said.

All those events are in the first of two weeks of the festival.

The festival continues until Feb. 24, with Voices of the North running from Feb. 21 to 23, the Gospel Show on Feb. 24, and the annual indoor and outdoor events such as King Trapper, the bonfire and fireworks, fish fry, and sled dog races at the Alfred Jenkins Field House from Fed. 22 to 24.

The 2019 festival also marks the return of the poster contest, hosted by Gateway Mall and the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A blank page ran in the Herald over the past few weeks and kids aged 4-12 drew their favourite Winter Festival image and coloured them. The winners are being selected this week, and all posters will hang at the Gateway Mall.

While the turnout wasn’t as large as Mihilewicz had hoped, he’s happy to see an old favourite return in a new form.

“At one time there used to be a Winter Festival poster contest when Weyerhauser was here. They would donate a bunch of paper and it would go to all the schools. I remember that from when I was a kid,” he said.

“This colouring contest, I think it’s a great start.”