Arts & CultureCampus & City

Silver Skate Festival celebrates Edmonton’s winter spirit, as well as its cultures and communities

What: Silver Skate Festival
Where: Hawrelak Park
When: February 10-20, 2017
Tickets: Free (excluding certain events)
More info at

Edmonton’s winters are long and harsh, as we all know. All you want to do is curl up at home with Netflix and hibernate until spring. The annual Silver Skate Festival seeks to convince you otherwise, by hosting plenty of fun winter activities to pull you out of bed. Why stay at home when you can go skating, check out some local music or wander in a Narnia-like Ice Castle?

The Silver Skate Festival is the longest running winter festival in Edmonton. With roots in Dutch winter traditions, the festival will be celebrating its 27th anniversary this year and has plenty to offer as far as arts, culture, recreation and sporting events go. As Erin DiLoreto, the festival’s executive producer, says, “We try to offer something for everyone.”

Courtesy of Silver Skate

The event’s history begins in 1990, when the Ice Skating Club would partake in weekend speed skating races in the park, as would the Edmonton winter triathlon. DiLoreto explains how the group would “bring their skates and deep fryers” down for the weekend. Eventually, the Silver Skate Festival Society was formed, and 15 years later, the city was granted Cultural Capital status, allowing the festival to invest in more cultural events.

“(The festival has) evolved,” DiLoreto says. “We worked towards what the community and audience wanted.”

Over the festival run time, there are several art related events that people can attend, both in the day, and at night. During the day, visitors can wander around and check out artists carving out snow sculptures. As a part of the snow sculpture symposium, artists both Canadian and international have an opportunity to carve into snow their interpretation of each year’s theme. This year it is “A Brave New World.”  

Courtesy of Silver Skate
Courtesy of Silver Skate

In the evening the festival becomes alive with fire sculptures, local music, and the ice castle. The fire sculptures are built by different artists and during six nights, each team incorporates their sculpture within a story; this year’s story is called “Land of the Golden Apples”. The fire sculptures have only been a part of the festival since 2009. The idea was to “create a new winter experience in the city of Edmonton,” DiLoreto says. As a part of the above-mentioned story taking place in the story telling tent, visitors are encouraged to write down their unhappy and regretful thoughts, which are later put ignited in the fire.  

The Silver Linings Performance tent also hosts various events. Over the weekend, the Spice Boys threw a party to commemorate Spice Girls 20th anniversary, and a cabaret took place. Next weekend, a play “Cowboy: A Cowboy Story,” and a live music performance by The Royal Foundry will take over the tent. DiLoreto explains how all the events have their own audience.

 “They all have their own followings,” she says. “I think they all have their draw.”

To celebrate and honour Canadian history, the festival offers a unique look into the lives of indigenous people through teepees, Cree winter camps and shelters. Visitors can buy few souvenirs and see what life was like for Albertan indigenous nations. This all takes place in the Heritage Village.

“The Heritage Village… is all about our indigenous winter culture in Alberta,” DiLoreto says. “(The village is) as best of a historical representation of how these indigenous people would live on the lands back in the past.”

Courtesy of Silver Skate

The festival expects to have between 125,000 to 150, 000 visitors this year — but could see more if the weather stays warm. Arts, culture, sports and recreation all play a big important role in this festival. There are many activities for adults, children and families. There are sporting events such as triathlon and races for the athletes, snow forts and mazes for the kids and live music for the youngsters.

“One of the things we love about the Silver Skate Festival is the sense of community, the fact that there’s something offered for everyone,” DiLoreto says. “So, every facet: the arts, the culture, the rec, and the sport, they’re all important pieces. Dad can go watch sporting events, mom can enjoy the snow sculptures or have a hot toddy in the trailer or visit the fire sculptures. There’s skating, the kids can play in the snow fort, the maze, or play Broomball, or they can create snow sculptures. There’s so many different activities, and hopefully we have something for everyone to come down and have a good time.”

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