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Winterfest comes to the Heights, bringing plenty of cool fun

By Sharon Harrison
Lots of winter fun and games was had by the roughly 200 folks who dropped by a pop-up in the park winterfest Saturday afternoon in the Heights area of Picton.

Krista Dalby

Put together by the Department of Illumination, led by artistic director Krista Dalby, the local arts organization is known for its extraordinary events in the community over the last decade.

In the spirit of, ‘it takes a village’, the group partnered with several local organizations for the event, including the Baxter Arts centre, Prince Edward County Public Library, Greater Than County Youth Collective, County Kids Reads, the Picton Recreation Committee and Base31.

This first Winterfest at the London Avenue Park came alive with a range of activities for all ages of kids, and included prizes.

“It started out as a really small idea, and it really snowballed as more and more people wanted to be involved,” said Dalby.

The idea was to make it accessible to all where everyone was welcome to join in the festivities, at no cost to attendees, and to choose an area of the County that traditionally is underserved with these types of events.

The Prince Edward County Public Library provided snow pants story time on the snowy grass, and there was a good selection of books for the children to take home, for all ages, reading levels and interests, courtesy of County Kids Reads.

While the event has been in the planning stages for a while and was ready to go at a moment’s notice, the date was only made public a few days ago, all in the hopes of a good weather day.

Dalby noted how the initial idea for the event came about through an unfortunate incident.

“The Department of Illumination had painted some picnic tables up here last summer, and last fall one of them got vandalized,” she explained. “We took that as a signal that this park maybe needed more activity in it, and more resources brought to this community.”

It was then they banded together with some other non-profit organizations to create the winter pop-up event.

Designed as a community celebration, along with games and activities, Feed Me Love, a project spearheaded by Heights’ resident chef Andrew Johnston, provided free helpings of chili and fixings and cornbread (where many returned for second and third helpings), along with warming hot chocolate, supplies of which ran out, but were soon replenished.

Johnston said he made the vegetarian chili himself, and while he said he just throws a bunch of ingredients together, it produced a tasty chili many were oohing and aahing about.

“There are far more people than I ever expected,” said a beaming Johnston, clearly delighted by the attendance. “There’s twice as many as I thought would come out.”

Along with the park’s play structure and an adjacent snow pile painted in rainbow colours that was ideal for climbing, there were children’s games involving throwing balls into holes, a giant wooden Jenga many kids couldn’t resist playing with, especially when it repeatedly, and loudly, crashed to the ground.

A warming fire pit ensured hands were kept toasty warm, but importantly, its function, courtesy of the Picton Rec Committee, was roasting marshmallows for the tasty purpose of making s’mores.

The art of roasting marshmallows was a learning curve for some as the white mallows ended up blackened to a crisp, and some came with flames having caught fire. But after a few tries of mastering the technique of not getting too close to the fire, success resulted in delicious offerings, along with smiling, and gooey faces.

Mid-way through the afternoon, the park came alive with two giant puppets, whose animated interaction with the crowd brought smiles, laughter and much curiosity.

Short Attention Spa, also known as the comedy duo of Lenny Epstein and Gavin North, put on an informal improvisation performance wearing giant puppets of themselves where they mingled among the crowd, fascinating children along the way with the unusual sight.

“The winter can be very tough and isolating, so just creating something free, family-friendly, and to get people out of their houses was the purpose of creating this event,” added Dalby.

She said it was also all about creating relationships with people.

“Meeting people and finding out what they would like to see in their community in terms of what types of supports and services people are looking for, so really just opening up that conversation and getting to know each other.”

The January event, designed to brighten up a gloomy, cold winter’s day, did just that.

And while the sun decided not to co-operate, the warmth generated by those who attended made the afternoon a roaring success, noted several of the contributing organizations, as everyone appeared to leave happy, satisfied and with big smiling faces.


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