Break out those toques and snow boots, the Winter Festival has begun

The 2020 sled dog races take place Feb. 22 and 23 at the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse. This year's honorary chair, Gordy Sproull, announced the races for over 50 years. (Herald file photo)

“It’s a community event and it’s been a community event for over 50 years.”

The longest running winter festival in western Canada is now in full swing for its 56th year.

The Prince Albert Winter Festival kicked off Friday evening with the Rock Show Experience at the Exhibition Centre, but there’s lots more to come as the event continues for the next two weeks.

This is Bev Erickson’s first year as the festival’s president. She said she’s feeling both frantic and excited.

“It started way back when, when winter was long and hard and they wanted to have a weekend, it was just a weekend at that time…where everybody could go out and do some stuff and look forward to spring,” she said.

The late Orville Erickson, her father-in-law, was one of the people who created the event. She never got the opportunity to meet him, but continues to contribute to seeing the festival thrive in his honour.

Erickson said planning typically begins in the spring with a debriefing session, where the volunteers discuss what went well and what they’d like to improve.

“We want to continue to provide youth any opportunity that’s available for them to get out in front of the public, doing drama, singing,” she explained.

The Youth Extravaganza, which takes place on Sunday at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre, has over 100 participants. The show is produced by Pamela Cochet and Kayleigh Skomorowski.

Tickets are $15 and are available at the Rawlinson for the 7 p.m. show.

In terms of what they’d like to improve, Erickson said they hope to continue to expand the festival’s cultural events.

The jigging contest, for example, takes place at the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre on Feb. 22. The contest starts at 3 p.m. and runs until 5, with registration beginning at 2:30.

There’s also fiddle show on Feb. 17 and a fish fry on Feb. 21, 22 and 23. But Erickson hopes to add events in the future that pertain to all cultures, reflecting the diverse backgrounds in Prince Albert and area.

However, no matter your interests, Erickson said “There’s something for everyone.”

“There’s the actual music events and then there’s dog sled races and king and queen trapping events,” she said.

“There’s jigging, you can participate or you can watch, there’s fiddling, there’s the Country North Show, rock show.”

Ultimately, Erickson said, the festival is run entirely by volunteers who want to put on a fun event where people can come together.

“That’s why the festival is so important to keep going. It’s a community event and it’s been a community event for over 50 years.”

2020 Prince Albert Winter Festival Schedule

Sunday, Feb. 9 — Youth Extravaganza (starts at 7 p.m. at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre).

Monday, Feb. 10 — Comedy Show (starts at 8 p.m. at the Rock & Iron Sports Bar).

Thursday, Feb. 13 — Voices of the North (starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Exhibition Centre).

Friday, Feb. 14 — Voices of the North (starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Exhibition Centre).

Saturday, Feb. 15 — Snowmobile Rally (starts at 11 a.m. at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation), Voices of the North (starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Exhibition Centre), Voices of the North Cabaret (starts at 10 p.m. at the Exhibition Centre).

Sunday, Feb. 16 — Beerd Derby Final Judging (starts at 7 p.m. at the Rock & Iron Sports Bar), The Adventure Youth Talent Show (starts at 7 p.m. at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre).

Monday, Feb. 17 — Family Day Sliding Party (starts at 11 a.m. at Little Red River Park), Skate with the Raiders (4 to 6 p.m. at Crescent Heights Community Club), Fiddle Show (starts at 7 p.m. at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre).

Tuesday, Feb. 18 — Raider Game Winter Festival Night (starts at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre).

Wednesday, Feb. 19 — Country North Show (starts at 7 p.m. at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre).

Thursday, Feb. 20 — Country North Show (starts at 7 p.m. at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre).

Friday, Feb. 21 — All at the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse: Fish Fry (starts at 5:30 p.m.), Drum Group, Scouts Parade, Bonfire (starts at 7 p.m.), Fireworks (starts at 8 p.m.).

Saturday, Feb. 22 — All at the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse: Craft & Trade Show (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Kidz Fun Zone (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), Fish Fry (11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), Sled Dog Races (starts at noon), King & Queen Trapper (starts at noon), Armwrestling (starts at 12:30 p.m.), Jigging Contest (3 to 5 p.m.).

Sunday, Feb 23 — All at the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse: Craft & Trade Show (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), Kidz Fun Zone (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), Fish Fry (11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), Sled Dog Races (starts at noon), King & Queen Trapper (starts at noon). Also taking place on Feb. 23 is the Gospel Show (starts at 7 p.m. at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre).

Buttons, which cost $3 each, are required for admission to all events and are available at a number of stores listed on princealbertwinterfestival.com. Some events also have an additional charge or ticket.