The annual Deep Freeze has always had ice sculptures as part of its celebration. But this year’s Deep Freeze Fête has sculptures doing double duty as art and as representing cultural fables.

The theme of this year’s fête is The Fiddle and Fables. “Something we’ve talked about on and off [throughout the years] was fables,” says Christy Morin, artistic director. 

Eight different sites are graced with installations of a cultural fable that includes the fable and the ice sculpture that represents it. A large majority of those fables were chosen with participation from owners of local businesses on Alberta Avenue. And because Chinese New Year lands in February, the Nguyen family is hosting the ice sculpture of the ox in front of Numo Cannabis store on 118 Avenue.

“Arts have always been a game changer in successful revitalization zones. Arts on the Ave continues to build the community through the power of the arts wanting to showcase local businesses and the beauty of our community and neighbours,” says Morin.

Morin explains many business owners are first or second generation Canadians who immigrated from all around the world. So when organizers were working on Deep Freeze Fête, they contacted some local business owners and asked them if they’d like to participate and to choose their favourite or most memorable fable from their country of birth. 

Some stories include a Vietnamese fable about a water buffalo called The Origin of the Buffalo – When Haste Pays a Huge Price; a Haitian fable about why there are no toads in rivers called The Toad and Simbi; and a Napalese fable called Muna Madan featuring star-crossed lovers.

“One of the most riveting is a legend called El Cadejo about two dogs. It’s very scary,” says Morin. “Jesus Jr. [of Paraiso Tropical] said he would have nightmares as a young boy of the dogs walking past his house.”

As always, French-Canadian, Ukrainian, and Indigenous cultures are represented. People can check out those fables and the respective sculptures in Borden Park.

Gaetan Benoit and Katrine Deniset played an important role in the French-Canadian installation, an interpretation of a fable called Les marionnettes (The Puppets)

Benoit, part of the artistic team for Francophone programming, helped choose the fable and helped with the installations in Borden Park. Benoit explains that he spoke with Roger Dallaire, his friend and a musician, to decide which fable to use. They settled on a fable about a fiddler puppeteer.

“I asked Katrine to write a modern take on a fiddler who makes the northern lights dance,” says Benoit. “The idea of a fable evolving was fun.” 

The result was Deniset writing 11 haikus in French and English. Deniset says Les marionnettes captures the French-Canadian spirit. The location of the installation was also important. “It just fit Borden Park so well. There’s something so magical about that park.”

Borden Park is one of the sites, and includes a beautiful promenade. | Epic Photography

Benoit and Deniset worked with set designer Kevin Green (designer and technical director) to help bring Les marionnettes to life in Borden Park with light installations, sound, and music. “The soundscape was created by the Edmonton musician and music producer Raphaël Freynet with the help of the very talented Daniel Gervais on the fiddle,” says Benoit.

People are welcome to visit the sites as long as those sculptures stand. Text for the fables is on for another month or two. The website also includes an animation for The Mitten, a Ukrainian fable, DYI workshops, and musical and other artistic features. Video of a musical kitchen party, featuring Alfie Myhre (of Myhre’s Music) and other musicians will be online until the end of March.

Deep Freeze Fête 
Feb. 5-14
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