Art Burn at the 2011 Silver Skate Festival

At twenty one years of age, the Silver Skate Festival is the granddaddy of winter festivals in our fair city. Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone in Edmonton is aware that Silver Skate exists, in spite of the fact that it offers something for everyone. What other event hosts a winter triathlon, long blade skate tryouts, snow sculptures, musical performances and fun with fire?

That said, it was a mostly brutal weekend for the festival to fall on – bitterly cold temperatures probably kept some curious festivalgoers away, and had we not already agreed to judge the Art Burn competition, as Mack mentioned, he and I likely would have been among those under self-imposed house arrest too. Of course – Edmontonians are a hearty lot, so it wasn’t a surprise that we encountered a small crowd at Hawrelak Park when we arrived at Silver Skate on Saturday night.

Walking to the festival grounds from the bus stop was a bit of an adventure in itself. Erin Di Loreto, Festival Producer, explained that one of the challenges of the site was access to power, but the stick lanterns that lined the path really didn’t really do the job. Moreover, though it might be minor in the grand scheme of things, some sand around the main programming space might have also helped in the relative darkness.

Once we arrived at the grounds, located next to the permanent shelter and concession building, we found it to be quite spirited indeed, but acknowledgement of the temperature – a tent had been set up to shield the musical performers from the cold, with a few fires set up around the stage to keep onlookers warm.

The snow sculptures were also noteworthy, picturesque and beautifully illuminated.

Silver Skate Festival

Snow sculpture alley

Silver Skate Festival

Some of the snow sculptures were still being touched up!

Silver Skate Festival

Fun Yelp throne

After meeting up with our fellow judges (Chris Carson, Director of Visual Arts Alberta and Shane Golby with the AGA), we took a look at the sculptures (with the aid of flashlights – most people would only see them once they were alight).

There were six sculptures in total, crafted from hay, wood, fabric and a few other indeterminately flammable materials. We were to judge them on criteria that included their artistic nature pre-burn, as well as how well the fire served the sculpture (and vice versa).

Silver Skate Festival

Marissa Kochanski’s phoenix

The lighting of the sculptures was almost as elaborate as the construction of them, and involved the Vibe Tribe, a dance troop that plays with fire.

Silver Skate Festival

The Vibe Tribe was so much fun to watch (we still have no idea how the woman with the hula hoop managed not to set herself on fire)

The crowd followed them to the roped off area, and under the watchful eye of a Fire Marshall, the dancers set each of the six sculptures on fire.

Silver Skate Festival

Follow the vibe

The pre-burn favourite was also the post-burn favourite: Marissa Kochanski’s phoenix, with elegant wings constructed from strips of fabric. Unlike a few of the other sculptures, it also collapsed in a graceful manner.

Silver Skate Festival

Phoenix, post-burn

It was a spectacle that Mack and I were happy to witness, let alone judge. Thanks again to Erin for the opportunity!

Looking for more winter fun? Check out the Mill Creek Adventure Walk, February 25-26, or the Elk Island Star Party on March 5, 2011.

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