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Preparations underway for Orillia Winter Carnival

Mehreen Shahid

By Mehreen Shahid, Orillia Packet & Times

Kids enjoy a the ice slide at the Orillia Winter Carnival. Organizers are elbow-deep in preparations for this year’s festivities.

PACKET & TIMES FILE PHOTO Kids enjoy a the ice slide at the Orillia Winter Carnival. Organizers are elbow-deep in preparations for this year’s festivities.

A snow battle is heading to Orillia.

A Yukigassen Tournament, which is Japanese for "snow battle" is slated to be a feature event at this year's Orillia Winter Carnival being held on Feb. 11.

"It's basically a big giant snowball fight," said Mark Earl, vice president for the 2017 Winter Carnival Committee. "Apparently, it started a couple years ago out in Japan and it's catching on in Canada, that even has a national team."

Teams of seven can sign up for a registration fee of $200 (per team). The idea of the game is to collect points by either eliminating the other team's players or by capturing their flag. The match is split up into three periods lasting for three minutes each and all teams will receive 90 pre-made snowballs per period.

Also, new to this year's events roster is a Kids Zone.

"There's going to be a whole big kids zone in collaboration with the city and Camp Couchiching," said Earl. "It's going to have fun things for kids like crafts and a bouncy castle."

Some returning events include the adult dance Saturday night featuring Dr. Krane at the Geneva Event Centre starting at 9 p.m. and a youth party at the same location early on Friday evening.

"Dr. Krane is a local band and they play a little bit of everything. They do a lot of cover stuff, anything from old classics to modern rock," said Earl.

The carnival hopes to involve the community through a public build for the ice castle planned for Feb. 4, starting starting at 9 a.m. on the Saturday at downtown north of the corner of Mississaga Street and Matchedash Street.

"It will be a community-ice-castle-building party," said Earl. "We will be providing a light lunch for anyone coming to help out and it should be a fun day. The castle is being built with small ice blocks and that allows anyone to come help build."

The carnival committee is not harvesting ice from the lake as has been tradition over the past years.

"It's too much work involving heavy machinery, simple as that," said Earl. "It's very time consuming and you're two days, sometimes three, just harvesting ice and then you're a couple of days building the ice castle. With the other method, you can just build it in two days and you don't have to harvest anything, it just shows up in a truck."

Instead the blocks are being purchased from a company called Hyland Ice, making it easier to manage given the size of the blocks (that of a shoe box) and limiting the need for heavy machinery for ice harvesting.

And even though it adds a bit to the budget, Earl added, the carnival has been able to get enough sponsors onboard to cover the cost.

The castle will also serve as the jump-off point for the Polar Bear Dip, which will see participants splash into ice-cold water right off the castle.

The dip takes place at 2 p.m and has been brought downtown, said Earl, because it's easier to keep everything downtown and in one place.

The dip is a fundraiser helping raise money for Building Hope, a project aimed at expanding the services of the Lighthouse Soup Kitchen and Shelter. Participants can download pledge forms online and hand in funds collected at the registration table on the day of the event.

As well, added Earl, if there is still snow, visitors could see a couple snow sculptures, too.

For more information on events and to sign up to volunteer, visit

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