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Community thrilled with return of Fire and Ice Winter Festival

February 2, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Zachary Roman

Snow arrived in Caledon just in time to bring joy to attendees of the Fire and Ice Festival at the Alton Mill Arts Centre.

Held on January 28 and 29, the Festival brought people from Caledon, Dufferin and beyond together to celebrate winter fun and local artists. There was an incredible number of things for people to see and do, including but not limited to live ice sculpture carving, a custom-built super snow slide, live painting, fat bike demonstrations, games for kids, ball hockey games, an epic fire sculpture, food truck, comedy festival, live music, and artist demonstrations and workshops.

Martin Kouprie, Alton Mill Arts Centre’s General Manager, was on hand enjoying the festival.

He said he was really happy with the turnout, noting there were tons of people both inside and outside of the Arts Centre. As well, he said the two ticketed events for the festival, the live comedy and music, sold out. Kouprie said next year he might even have to put in an extra show just to meet the high demand.

Winter weather cooperating for the festival was just the cherry on top for Kouprie.

“I was doing a dance when I saw the snow come down,” he said. 

Cam Lindsey was one of the artists carving ice live for delighted onlookers at the festival. It was a special day for him, as it was his first time ever carving ice. 

Lindsey worked as a dentist in Caledon for over 40 years, and moved to Grand Valley when he retired — it was then that he got into woodcarving. Lindsey said his mom was a painter, so he came by his desire to pursue art honestly. The first few wood carvings Lindsey ever made were of owls. 

“It’s so fun,” said Lindsey of his first time carving in ice. “It’s totally different.”

Lindsey, who carved a fish sculpture at the festival, started with a template he drew to get the rough shape of the fish. He then had to borrow the chainsaw of veteran carver Jim Menken, as Lindsey said his chainsaw unfortunately broke right away when he started his project. 

“It’s a good group,” said Lindsey of the carving community, and he was quick to credit the skills of experienced carvers for helping him in his own journey.

Menken has been carving wood sculptures of all sizes for over 20 years, and has been coming to the Fire and Ice Festival for many years, too. He said it’s always a great time and that the Alton Mill is such a beautiful space. 

Carving in ice is different than wood, said Menken, as you have to be more careful about pieces of your sculpture popping off. However, there’s a lot of benefits to it too.

“It’s like carving butter compared to wood, it’s amazing,” said Menken. “It’s not hard on the body.”

Both Menken and Lindsey said ice carving is great to do live because people can really see the changes to a sculpture as they happen quickly.

The Fire and Ice Festival is a family affair for the Menkens, as Deb Menken, Jim’s wife, was giving a live intuitive painting demonstration inside the Arts Centre while Jim carved outside.

Deb explained that intuitive painting means approaching the canvas with no set plan. It’s about painting something, then responding to it yourself.

“It’s a back-and-forth conversation… it’s an abstract painting but I’m painting it in an intuitive way,” said Deb, noting she started with black and white and then began to add colour.

Nature colours like green, mauve and turquoise are some of Deb’s favourites, but she can’t do a painting without including at least some yellow. “It warms it up, it gives it some light,” said Deb, who first began taking painting lessons in 2015.

In 2017, Menken posted a painting on Facebook and someone inquired as to if they could buy it. It was an eye-opening moment for her, and her art teacher said if she wanted to sell more paintings she should join an art organization.

So, Deb joined Headwaters Arts, whose Alton Mill gallery she was painting live in at the Fire and Ice Festival. She’s now on the gallery committee of Headwaters Arts and is proud to help set up their monthly shows.

Trish Cubbage said the Fire and Ice Festival is her happy place and that she’s been coming to it for many years. She was with her son Cj at the super snow slide on Saturday afternoon, and said she knew he’d have a smile on his face the whole way down — and that he did.

The Alton Mill Arts Centre Fire and Ice Winter Festival will be back again next year to bring more smiles to the community.



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