Winter Light 2010 kicked off this evening with the Mispon Gala, “a whimsical event that launches Edmonton’s winter festival season.” Winter Light started last year and is meant to showcase Edmonton as a beautiful and interesting winter city. The gala took place at City Hall and included light installations, music and dance performances, and free food! The word “mispon” means “it’s snowing” in Cree, and while there were no snowflakes falling tonight, there was an odd sort of ice fog hanging over downtown. At –19 C (and wind chill of about –26 C) the temperature tonight was actually warmer than it was for the start of Winter Light last year.
Unfortunately, the temperature was about the only thing that went up this year! The entire event seemed smaller than in 2009. I arrived at City Hall just before 5pm and found Churchill Square and the skating ring and steps out front completely deserted, save for the three Winter Light people manning the fire stations and a couple others. There was a skate performance right at 4:30pm that I missed, sadly, but I still expected to find some people outside – it is a winter festival after all! I suppose they had trouble with attendance last year too though, so maybe it was wise to focus just on City Hall this year.
Indoor activities included music by Johnny Quazar and the Swingbots, and dance performances by Kristine Nutting’s Warm Up Burlesque. The music was quite good, the dance wasn’t for me 🙂 They did have a neat balloon drop at the end of it though! Food was once again provided by NAIT and included bannock with saskatoon marmalade, baked beans with sourdough crostini, and glazed meatballs. There was also hot chocolate and iced tea. Very tasty! Unfortunately there weren’t very many people in attendance to enjoy it all.
John Mahon, Councillor Tony Caterina, Pamela Anthony, Christy Morin, Shirley Low, and Ritchie Velthuis were all on hand tonight to bring greetings and a heads up on the upcoming Winter Light events. The next one is Deep Freeze (on ShareEdmonton), which takes place Saturday and Sunday on Alberta Avenue.
Pamela, who is the director of Winter Light, also thanked the sponsors. Apparently the $1.5 million spent this year and last wasn’t enough – Citytv, Pattison, and Canadian Tire are among the event’s sponsors. Winter Light might stretch over 10 weeks, but it’s really just 11 events, the biggest 3 of which would happen with or without Winter Light. Given that so much was established last year (like the website, tents, giveaways, etc) I find myself questioning again whether the money is being spent wisely or not.
As with last year’s opening ceremonies, tonight was just marketing for the rest of Winter Light. There were some positive things, such as the very cool snowshoe lanterns by Dylan Toymaker, but I came away mostly unimpressed. I hope that the rest of Winter Light 2010 will blow me away! You can see my photos from this evening at Flickr, and some video at YouTube.
UPDATE: Here are Sharon’s thoughts on the event.