Writing & Photography by Eunice Doroni
This time of year is always filled with nostalgia for the summer. Longing for the Edmonton summer festivals is one of the most common trends on my Facebook feed. However, I think that the Flying Canoe Volant Festival is an upcoming staple to our year-round festival lineup. It makes people want to brave the cold, and it shows us that Edmonton doesn’t just treat winter as a time to do summer activities indoors; instead, Canoe Volant shows us how Edmonton can embrace the winter and do things that you can only do in winter!
Flying Canoë Volant (Pimihâw Waskwayôsis) is a festival surrounding the French-Canadian/First Nations legend of the Flying Canoe or La Chasse-Galerie. According to the Flying Canoë Volant website, “…it is a tale of voyageurs who make a deal with the devil to fly in a birch bard canoe”. 2018 is the 6th time that the festival has run, it is becoming increasingly popular. Its popularity in the bone-chilling cold does not surprise me, as it employs some key aspects of the Edmonton Winter City Design (EWCD).
For example, one key feature of the EWDG is designing and providing the infrastructure that supports desired winter life and improving comfort and access in cold weather. The festival coordinated with Rutherford school so that participants of the festival can use the school as a warming station. In addition, there are various other indoor facilities such as La Cité and the tents that were placed around the grounds. There were also small fire pits that were used for either bannock cooking or to keep toes and fingers warm.
The festival also utilized lights and colour against the white snow to create a vibrant environment. You could see the lights from the 82 Ave and Rue Marie-Ann Gabourie intersection, and they continued down into the nearby Ravine paths. I thought that the colours would be overwhelming, or maybe too dark down by the ravine, but it was just the right amount of light. There were also brighter yellow and white lights on certain paths that needed to be well lit.
Winter doesn’t have to be terrible. The Canoë Volant is a wonderful, free winter event that provides interactive activities like bannock making, rolling up maple syrup on a popsicle stick, ski racing, and even a free dance party outside of La Cité. Events like Canoe Volant truly show that Edmonton is a year-round festival city and that our winters don’t suck. Personally, I think we should all just zip up our coats and our boots and embody a lot more of the Prairie-Canadian that brags about your superhuman ability to survive -40 degree temperatures every time you leave the country (or go to Vancouver, for that matter).