Cobourg Winter Festival

Cobourg Winter Festival Re-visited

Kevin Stuart

by Festival Nomad Correspondent, Kevin Stuart

All Sorts of Weather...

It’s often been said that Canadians know how to celebrate in all sorts of weather and that’s certainly evident in the number of carnivals that are held to try to stave off the winter blahs. The town of Cobourg spreads their festivities over three Saturdays in February with plenty of family-oriented fun and it’s all free!

Family Fun?

Our family came out on the third weekend which began with the a few hearty souls braving the icy waters of Lake Ontario to raise money for the local hospital with the polar bear dip. Their choice of activity may not be for everyone but their motive is helping a very worthy cause.

Skating Around...

The centre of the festivities was the Rotary Park ice rink with music playing from 11am-4pm while many skaters made their rounds. Also in the area, ice carving demonstrations by some of the finest of the craft. The only unfortunate side is that due tp the milder than usual weather, their creations didn’t survive from week to week but it did make each weekend’s displays different.

Playing With Ice...

New for this year were ice portraits which gave anyone who wished a take-home souvenir. Many kids were looking for logos of NHL teams but our son was more interested in his current favourite video game character – Mario. Kudos to the man with the chisel who made it possible.

Inside and Warmth!

When it’s time to take a break from the outdoors, the nearby market building was bustling with cookie decorating and, of course, hot chocolate. Many kids enjoyed making their own snack and savouring the result of their efforts. Colouring was also available for the budding young artists.

Riding The Town...

Back once again were the ever-popular carriage rides providing a view of downtown Cobourg. Even for local residents who may have seen it many times, seeing it from the perspective of a carriage makes it feel fresh.

Family Day Holiday

Holiday Monday brought another tradition with local police facing off against the medical profession in the annual Cops Vs. Docs hockey game to raise funds for the local hospital. It was a friendly rivalry with a few surprises thrown in during intermission. Among them a free skate demonstration complete with costumes and some good-natured fun. Prior to the game, people were asked to register to “chuck a puck” onto the ice with the puck landing closest to centre ice winning a prize. Incidentally, the docs won 10-7.


Cobourg Winter Festival

(Pre-event kick-off)


by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

Don’t Miss This Festival

Just before Christmas we were invited to a major announcement by Lara Scott, Events Co-ordinator for the Town Of Cobourg. The announcement/luncheon was taking place at Cobourg’s magnificent Victoria Hall. The second floor concert hall had been set up for the announcement. A jazz band, Big Easy 7, was on stage to entertain the attendees. Once everyone was settled, Lara came to the podium on the stage. She was there to announce Cobourg’s newest festival, the Cobourg Winter Festival. The festival dates are February 15th to 18th, 2008. For those of you who don’t remember, Ontario has a new holiday, “Family Day”, and it falls on February 18th. The new festival is packed with new and exciting events. The lights from Christmas Magic will be turned. The opening ceremonies will include the “Acrobatic Fire Show” and the “Sultans of String”. There will be fireworks, pancake breakfasts, hockey games, ice skating and much more. Down at Victoria Park will be the Fort Cobourg Ice Maze, a 30’ Ice Slide, a Treasure Hunt, Ice Canvasses, Snow Shoes, Beaver Tails and Hot Chocolate. On top of all this, a Harbourfront Zoo will be set up by the wonderful Ken Jen Animal Stars and Petting Zoo, an Ice Carving Demonstration and the “YOU BETTER NOT MISS THEM”, West Coast Lumberjack Show). Believe me I have seen this show and it is fantastic! There is much more I could list for you, but I won’t, it would be just too long! Much better come to the festival yourself. Judi and I have already purchased our button, have you? See you there! NOTE: To kick start the festival, eight Cobourg restaurants are hosting Savoury Celebrations. The celebration starts January 22nd and end January 27th. Each participating restaurant will be offering “prix fixe” meals, ranging from $20 - $25. The meals include appetizer, entrée and dessert.

Cobourg Winter Festival
(The Event)

It’s a Family Affair…

The new family holiday in Ontario was the perfect time for Cobourg’s new winter festival. The Cobourg Winter Festival, the brain child of Cobourg’s event coordinator, Lara Scott, was set to coincide with Ontario’s newest holiday, Family Day. A whole long weekend of fun and activities were planned, animals, lumberjacks, music, ice, snow and food! It was with this “fun” in mind that we climbed out of bed early (8:00 AM, well, not too early!!), showered and then jumped into our car to drive the “long” distance of 3km to the Cobourg Lions Centre. We were just in time for breakfast (pancakes and sausages) with 500 plus of our closest neighbours. The centre was packed with people waiting in line for their turn to be served. The meal was well worth waiting and was devoured quickly. With breakfast over, we headed downtown to see more of the day’s activities. Part of the main street had been closed off for a ball hockey tournament. Two fenced areas had been set up and players were already in the enclosures running back and forth, passing and shooting the ball. Great plays were being made by both shooters and goalies. It was very apparent that everyone, players and spectators, were having a great time. From the ball hockey area we headed towards Victoria Hall. This was where the ice sculpting was going to take place. Along the way we spotted a horse drawn trolley full of people enjoying the sights of Cobourg and its winter festival. As we reach Victoria Hall we ran into festival organizer Lara Scott who was making sure everything was ready for the ice sculpture demonstration. Shortly after Lara took her leave, the demonstration began…

Cold and Hot…

The sound of the chainsaw drew us to the front of Victoria Hall. An artisans from “icesculpture” was preparing blocks of ice for her ice sculpting demonstration. Two blocks of ice were fused together to become one. As the roar of the chainsaw filled the air, festival visitors started arriving and began congregating around the sculptor and her fused block of ice. Soon the block was ready to be turned into a work of art. To begin, the sculptor made an outline of the image to be carved on the block of ice. Then the chainsaw made short work of carving off the unnecessary pieces of ice. As the ice chips flew in various directions, the outline of the sculpture began to take shape. It was now time for the detailed carving. This is when the master’s touch turned plain block of ice into an amazing work of art! The crowd, as they looked on, was in awe of the craftsmanship of the sculptor! With the demonstration over and a damp cold setting in, we turned away from Victoria Hall and walked towards the Seniors’ Centre. As we entered the hall, we were greeted by the warmth of the centre and the volunteers in it! We were immediately offered a hot cup of chocolate and some delicious goodies. We sat down at one of the tables and were served by one of the friendly volunteers. All of the volunteers made us feel like we were guests in their home! Other festivals visitors, also seeking warmth were enjoying the same hospitality. The great room welcomed both weary adults in need of a place to sit and warm up and families with children who needed to use the washroom facilities. The centre even provided games and prizes for the children! After finishing our hot chocolate and goodies, we reluctantly took our leave and returned to the cold of the day… The Kids Loved It…

We were now headed towards the harbour and the Harbourfront Zoo. The “KenJen Animal Stars and Petting Zoo” were in town and ready to greet eager children and their parents! The KenJen animals are famous for their work in movies and television, plus according to Ken LaSalle, owner of the zoo, they are the friendliest animals on the planet! Ken, of course, is not prone to exaggerate! They certainly are the best behaves, because children of all ages, are encouraged to mix and walk with the animals. It was a wonderful sight to see people and animals all mingling together in harmony. It give new meaning to “Petting Zoo”, perhaps a new name could be the “Greet and Meet Zoo”. As Judi and I walked through the tent we were amazed at the variety of animals being presented, a miniature donkey, geese, pigs, lambs, chickens, ducks, a horse and even a “Kissing” Llama. You could tell from the smiles and the squeals of delight that everyone (animals and humans) were enjoying themselves. From the zoo, we walked east, through the now vacant trailer park, to Cobourg’s beautiful Victoria Park. The park had been turned into the “Fort Cobourg Family Fun Zone”! As we walked through the front gates, we were immediately confronted with “everything” ice! In the “Fort” we saw people playing “Tic-Tac-Tow” using giant “X”’s and “O”’s. A little further along was the ice “painting” wall. Children and adults were spreading different colours of paint on the wall making psychedelic patterns. In the centre of the “Fort” an ice “maze” had been set up to amaze and confused adults and children alike! At the southwest section of the “Fort” an ice “slide” had been erected. A long line of children eagerly waited for their turn on the slide. Each using a plastic sled to glide down the steep incline. Across from the slide, on the other side of the park, the Cobourg Lions were handing out hot chocolate and cookies at the park’s Lions’ Pavilion. Fun children’s games were also available. On our way out of the park we passed children building ice “forts” from blocks of ice that had been provided for that purpose! Leaving the park, we followed the crowd to the next Cobourg Winter Festival event…


We took the brick walkway that followed the Cobourg shoreline. Lake Ontario looked black and cold! The beach, which in the summer months is alive with people enjoying sand and sun, was now bleak and desolate. Now, only mounts of drifted snow covered the sandy beach. The pier, where Cobourg residents congregate much of the year to watch sunsets and sailboats, was closed off, now too dangerous to venture out on. After a short walk we reached the pier road and headed north to the harbourfront parking lot. This was where bleachers had been set up for the “West Coast Lumberjack Show”. There were already several people in the stands, even though the start of the show was ¾ of an hour away. As the stands filled, the excitement of the crowd grew as the announcer counted down the minutes. Then the stars of the show came out and started to loosen and prepare for the show. Finally the show’s MC took the stage and introduced all of the participants. The main star and owner of the show, Bryan Couture, welcome the crowd and introduced Lara Scott, the festival’s organizer. With the formalities over, it was time for the show to begin! Since there were 2 competing lumberjack teams, the MC split the crowd in two. Each section to cheer and support their assigned team! Show owner Bryan pumped the crowd up by trying to get his side of the crowd to cheer louder than the other side’s! His antics worked! Both teams competed in a variety of events, such as: “hot saw race”, “underhand chop”, “standing block chop” and the crowd favourite, the “axe throw”. The winners of each event were loudly cheered by their supporters! Even though the wind picked up and the temperature fell, the crowds stayed glued to their seats to the end of the show! The excited chatter after the show was a testament to how much the Cobourg Winter Festival visitors enjoyed the lumberjack show! Chilled to the bone, Judi and I walked back to our car and drove the short distance home.