Rekindle your love of Canadian winter traditions and the great outdoors at the Alton Mill Arts Centre’s 9th annual Fire & Ice Festival, January 20 and 21, 2018. In advance of the PyeongChang Olympics in February, the Alton Mill invites families and visitors of all ages to rediscover the “thrills and chills” of winter activities, sports, and culture including bonfires, authentic outdoor pond hockey, skating, curling, and the return of a fan favourite for the younger set: the super snow slide.
Highlights of the 2018 festival include an after-dusk fire sculpture on Saturday evening in the Mill’s outdoor Annex Courtyard, crafted in secret by Brian Oates, accompanied by a musical playlist created by local artist Paul Morin, and sponsored by Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. Throughout the afternoon, both Saturday and Sunday, visitors are invited to watch magic unfold in real time as ice carvers Brian Oates, John McCartney, Chis von Innerebner, Winston Uytenboggart, Jim Menken, Cam Menken, Fiona Legg and Monica Bishop transform blocks of ice into a garden of imaginative sculptures. Toronto-based contemporary artist Ryan Pechnick brings the ice indoors with an evolving installation of ice and ink in the Pond Gallery. Stay warm, and cozy up to the bonfire on the rinkside Millpond Terrace, or watch as the Mill’s ceramic artist Ann Randeraad demonstrates raku firing in an outdoor kiln on Saturday afternoon.
Arts Centre co-founder Jeremy Grant remarks that the festival is at its core, a community event, where families and visitors can gather together and celebrate arts and culture through shared experiences. The studios and galleries of the beautifully restored industrial arts complex are open from 10am-5pm throughout the festival. Visitors can plan to warm up inside, and wander through open studios and galleries or pre-register for a class or workshop with Mill studio artists. Mark Grice hosts an “Open Studio Sunday” in the Bridge Workshop where students are guided through the process of painting an image of their choice, CJ Shelton hosts a “Words of Fire” workshop, resulting in the creation of a group Mandala, and The Hive is offering exploratory “Give it a Whirl!” workshops for beginners interested in trying the ancient art of encaustic painting, at 1pm and 3pm on both days. Participants should contact instructors to register; full details including cost and times are available online at altonmill.ca.
On the Mill’s main floor, gallery shows include, “Synergy,” a vibrant collection of collaborative works by regional artists in the Headwaters Arts Gallery and “Essential Reflections,” mesmerizing photography-based works in the Noodle Gallery by Joanna Bell, Jessica Lin, and Bryant Serre, with an opening reception on Sunday from 1-4pm. Rare Threads , the Mill’s fibre design and fashion market, hosts a Nordic-inspired event with vodka sampling, Icelandic cake, and high-fashion outerwear designs by Therma Kōta and Canadian designer Linda Lundström, and fair-trade vendor TresBello. Gallery Gemma Jewellery invites festival goers ages 18 and older to guess the number of colourful crystals in a glass for their chance to win a gemstone.
Gourmandissimo Café provides hot beverages and warm meals both indoors and, for the festival weekend, outdoors on the grounds of the historic Alton Mill. The outdoor menu has everything from BBQ to Beaver Tails. Also on hand is Love’s Sweetness, serving their sticky sweet Maple Syrup snow pops. Additional beverages for visitors aged 19 years or older are available on the upper level of the Mill, with a “Toonie Tastings” set-up in the Falls Gallery featuring local producers Grand Spirits Distillery, Badlands Brewing Company, Heartwood Farm, and GoodLot Farmstead Brewing Co., and a cash bar in the Pond Gallery.
What winter festival is complete without Pond Hockey? On Saturday, from 8am-4pm, Maple Leaf alumnus Gary Leeman joins teams of all ages and abilities taking part in the 9th Annual Alton Millpond Hockey Classic. A few tickets are still available for the 6-11pm Hot Stove Lounge ($25 each, in-person at Gourmandissimo Café in the Alton Mill, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org ) featuring pub food, a cash bar, 50/50 prizes, a silent auction and the Toronto Maple Leafs playing the Ottawa Senators on the big-screen in the Millrace Room. Over the past 8 years, sponsors and participants have raised more than $70,000 towards the Alton Millpond Rehabilitation Project. Participants and spectators alike are welcome to visit altonmillpondhockey.ca for more details.
This year marks the return of the Fire & Ice photo competition. Fine art photographers are encouraged to take their best snaps throughout the weekend and submit their digital photographs online no later than Sunday, February 4th at 4pm under the categories: Fire Sculpture Burn, Pond Hockey, and General Festival (additional categories may be added at jurors’ discretion). The Grand Prize winner will receive a month of exhibition space in the Falls Gallery. Details are available on the Alton Mill website and Facebook page.
Admission to the Fire & Ice Festival is Pay What You Can, with a suggested donation of $10 per adult, $5 per child, or $25 per family. Free parking and shuttle bus are offered from offsite parking lots. Activities are subject to change without notice, and weather conditions may affect outdoor programming.
The 2018 festival is sponsored by Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, Heartwood Farm & Cidery, and Van Harten Surveying Inc.