Enjoy traditions, art, and storytelling during the heart of winter

“The elves are busy,” said Christy Morin, artistic director of Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival. She is oh, so right. There are scores of volunteers for the Jan. 12-13 extravaganza. With more than 50,000 people expected to attend, volunteer training plays a major role in preparations.

Excitement for the 12th year of the festival is particularly high. Volunteer John Lang recalls the rains and winds that sabotaged Kaleido Festival last September. “Deep Freeze this year will make up for it,” said Lang. “It’s going to be more fun than ever.”

Winter Tales is this year’s Deep Freeze theme.

Allison Argy-Burgess, festival producer, said, “Winter is a time of storytelling for many cultures, with folk tales, myths, and legends. Our focus is on Russian, Ukrainian, Francophone, and Indigenous cultures. All relate beautifully to winter and storytelling.”

Saturday is Ukrainian Cultural Day, featuring Shumka and Cheremosh dancers.

After the fireworks on Saturday evening, festival stages will host world music performances until 10 pm. The expanded hours allow for more music at The Carrot Coffeehouse, Big Bear Yurt at Pipon (Indigenous) Village, and the Igloo and Hearth stages at Alberta Avenue Community League Hall. A mix of Cuban, Irish, Indigenous, Romani, and Middle Eastern flavoured music will be featured.  

Francophone Cultural Day is on Sunday, with log sawing and log lifting competitions. Jason Kodie, a well-known Francophone singer and regular contributor to CBC’s Radio Active, plays the Igloo stage on Sunday. At the Hearth stage, Cristian de la Luna, a Colombian by birth with strong ties to Quebec, will perform evocative songs in French from his new album.

Indigenous culture and events are ongoing both days in the expansive Pipon Village. Bannock, a popular Indigenous staple food, is always a favorite. On both days, Métis actor and playwright Josh Languedoc will perform his one-man play Rocko and Nakota, the moving story of a young man who reconnects with his grandfather and learns valuable lessons about their culture.

Additionally, the prairie homestead area will reveal a fascinating peek into pioneer life. The area includes blacksmithing, fruit canning and preserving, spinning, and wood carving. An old-time craft fair will also be open.    

This year, ice is bigger than ever. Festival goers can take in brightly-lit ice sculptures and ice slides and play crokicurl, a new game that’s a mix of crokinole and curling.

Of course, there’s plenty of snow at the festival. Joshua Laczko is the man behind copious heaps of snow. A former NAIT business management student, Laczko first volunteered with Deep Freeze in 2012. Today, as owner of Rebel Heart, a trucking and hauling business, Laczko still volunteers his time and equipment to benefit the festival.

“I don’t get paid, but I do it to support the community. Deep Freeze is free, and it’s growing. It’s generally just a good idea for a community to be involved in a positive neighbourhood event like this.” In 2009, when Joshua attended NAIT, he lived in the Alberta Avenue area. Now he owns a house here.

Morin is thrilled with this year’s Deep Freeze plans. “Interest is high and we keep growing. Performers are returning and new ones are on board. The festival brings people together. I love to see the smiling faces and rosy cheeks of the children. It’s magical and wonderful.”


All events are family-oriented. Donations appreciated.

118 Ave, from 90th to 95th St

Jan. 12: Noon to 10 pm

Jan. 13: Noon to 6 pm

For a complete schedule: deepfreezefest.ca

Featured Image: Be sure to check out the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers during Deep Freeze Festival. | Epic Photography