Article: It’s A Mistake To Cancel Dow’s Lake Snow Sculptures

Ottawa Citizen article on the cancellation of snow sculptures by Michael Pealow.

An article/opinion piece from the Ottawa Citizen, from 2000 or 2001. Full text below.

It’s a mistake to cancel Dow’s Lake snow sculptures

When I think of Winterlude, I think of three things: skating, BeaverTails and snow sculptures. Thanks to the National Capital Commission and the marvelous new City of Ottawa, one is disappearing from the Rideau Canal this year – maybe permanently.

Remember all those snow sculptures on Dow’s Lake? Well, you’re not going to be seeing them this year because the City of Ottawa, long-time host of the annual Ice Dreams snow sculpture competition, has pulled out of the event.

Is it because of the recent amalgamation? I really don’t know.

Regardless, the NCC, instead of finding someone else to sponsor the event, das decided to introduce dogsledding, sledge hockey, and one or two other activities.

Sure, dogsledding and sledge hockey are fun, but good luck getting a turn at either of these activities during Winterlude. Aside from inevitable line-ups of hundreds of festival-goers, they are only operated on occasion during the festival.

Snow sculptures are there morning, noon, and night, seven days a week. They might do more for Ottawa’s image than any other Winterlude activity.

For the past four years, some fellow Carleton University School of Business students and I have been trudging out into the cold to compete in the Ice Dreams competition. It has been our way to make winter in Ottawa more enjoyable for everyone. From the reactions of everyone who walked and skated by, it did.

Snow sculptors are ambassadors for the city. School groups visiting Ottawa would come by and visit us while we carved our sculptures. We would tell them how we did it and how they could, too. Sometimes, we would even let them try.

We took hundreds of pictures for visitors at our site alone. Travellers from all [over] our country and the world would watch, some for over an hour. For many, you could tell it was the highlight of their trip.

Stories like these make their way home to friends and family. Then, more visitors come [to] the capital region for the next Winterlude. Obviously, this is good for the region’s economy. What are those same visitors going to say after this Winterlude?

I received a letter from a visitor last year, which read, “Thank you for sharing with us old gals from Esquimault, Victoria, the experience of Winterlude in Ottawa.” All I did was take their picture with the sculpture.

I admit that the art of snow sculpture will not entirely disappear from Winterlude. There will be sculptures on Parliament Hill, professional sculptures that are awfully hard to skate to.

The NCC has never really concerned itself with the opinions of the public, or what the public thinks makes Ottawa such a great place to live. But what about the City? After amalgamation, is the new City of Ottawa going to lose touch with what really makes this city special?

– Michael Pealow, Ottawa

Some other articles and letters to the editor you might like (Text available below):

Text Versions:

Winterlude brings back snow sculptures

Cancelation upset public last year.

by Michael Prentice – Ottawa Buzz

Winterlude organizers have admitted they goofed. After a one-year absence, snow sculptures will be back on Dow’s Lake this winter. There was public outcry last winter when the National Capital Commission and the City of Ottawa cancelled the sculptures, built by amateurs. Organizers said the sculptures had lost popularity. Now the NCC and the city have acknowledged their mistake. “I am surprised I wasn’t hanged at Dow’s Lake last winter,” says Aldo Chiappa, a city official responsible for the snow sculptures. The sculptures should be bigger and better this winter, he said. The number of sculptures, made by groups of volunteers, will be limited to 60. This will allow for sculptures twice as large as in recent years, without danger of them falling through…

Build snow sculptures on front yards and school grounds

It’s unfortunate that the National Capital Commission and the City of Ottawa have decided not to hold the Ice Dream competition this year (“NCC takes axe to snow sculptures,” Jan. 10). I have participated in the amateur snow-sculpting contest and found it a fantastic and rewarding experience.
It was great to get a group of friends together and spend several evenings, even [when] it was out on the cold and wind-swept Dow’s Lake, digging, shovelling, moulding, spraying and finessing our sculpture, so that the general public and foreign visitors could enjoy what winter in our wonderful city is all about – enjoying oneself.
I would suggest that would-be snow sculptors of all ages find a place on their front lawns or back yards, in school yards and work places (with permission of course), to build a snow sculpture and show that we have the spirit and sense of fun that the NCC and city seem to have misplaced this year.
I will be building a sculpture, along with a friend, on the property of Manor Park Heights, where I live. The management is ecstatic about the prospect of having someone actually build something from snow and having residents of our area in Manor Park enjoy one aspect of Winterlude that we have been accustomed to viewing on Dow’s Lake.
Don’t let Winterlude officials deny you the fun of snow sculpting. Get out there and do it. Enjoy it.
Jacqueline D. Trucios,
Ottawa.

Community Spirit

It was with shock and disbelief that I read the article on the cancellation of Ice Dreams. Having participated as a sculptor in this event for the past eight years, I feel I am in a position to respond to the disparaging remarks by City of Ottawa spokesperson Aldo Chiappas [sic].
After years of battling cold and rain, and putting in very long hours to create sculptures that others could enjoy and have fun with, I feel Mr. Chiappas [sic] has missed the point of the whole excercise. We should not be compared to what has been done on Parliament Hill and Confederation Park because yes, maybe Dow’s Lake is a back yard: a place for ordinary people, associations, schools and friends to express themselves artistically without the pressure of measuring up to professionals.
Winterlude should be fun, allowing people to get out and participate in their community, not simply a way to being in tourists dollars. Ever since the NCC and City of Ottawa deemed it proper to cut funds and privatize the operation, the sculpting event has steadily declined for participants as well as for the public. The participants received less and less backup and were basically left to fend for themselves.
The public was also disappointed because of this evident lack of organization, with the signs giving details about each sculpture being posted well after the competition was over, if at all, and with hardly any way to tell who the winners were days after the judging had been done.
It just shows the devotion and team spirit of the sculptors that so many continued to participate under these conditions. The event is the second most popular with the public because we did it for the public – for those people who enjoyed coming to talk to us and watching the work in progress, and for the huge crowds on the weekends that stopped and snapped pictures of the sculptures and enjoyed their beauty and humour.
It gave us the opportunity to show our neighbours and tourists our craftsmanship and wit, it gave us a sense of belonging to the community.
Mr Chiappas [sic] feels shutting us down will not affect the tourist dollar brought in by Winterlude, but is there not more to this event than making money? Our plans were all ready for this year’s Ice Dreams, and so were yours, Mr Chiappas [sic]. But you say that you “didn’t shut the door completely” on this and that you “would be happy to open discussions with the Dow’s Lake sculptors on its future.”
Just tell us when and where. We will be there.
Chantal Roux, Hull

Sad alternative

The winter in Ottawa is bad enough. Now, without the anticipation of the snow sculptures, it’s worse. So the city wants to save the money for more entertainment on Canada Day, Well, I’m not in need of more entertainment on Canada Day. It’s during the cold, wet, traffic-laden winter that I need more entertainment.
Did participants pay a fee for entering to cover some of the costs? I’m sure they would, given this sad alternative. Is this a done deal? Is there room for discussion? I want my snow sculptures.
Colleen Baker, Nepean

NCC wrong to cancel snow sculptures

I think it is a huge mistake to cancel the snow sculptures display at Dow’s Lake (“NCC takes axe to snow sculptures,” Jan. 10), and I hope that the National Capital Commission has enough sense to make sure the Ice Dreams competition continues.
I have helped build these snow sculptures in the past. It is a lot of fun and great for the community. I have persuaded a lot of people, from my family to my school, to get involved.
It will truly be a shame if this event disappears.
Darcy McRae, Ottawa

Snow Sculptures

Who did the National Capital Commission survey on the snows sculptures (“NCC takes axe to snow sculptures,” Jan. 10)? For years we have gone in to Ottawa to see them and have loved looking at them, as have many others. We all appreciate the time and work involved in their creation.
It’s marvelous that young people would involve themselves in something the whole community could enjoy.
Dorothy Brunton,
Carleton Place

Group of Carleton students keeps snow-sculpting alive

By John Guise

The Dow’s Lake snow sculptures may have escaped the plow.
After a meeting this week between the National Capital Commission, the City of Ottawa, and a group of Carleton University students, there are plans for snow-sculpting workshops on the lake during Winterlude 2001 and reviving competition during Winterlude 2002.

The students started building bootleg sculptures last week, until they were asked to stop because they did not have a permit.

Michael Pealow, one of the students involved, then contacted the news media.

At that point, he started getting a lot of support for the snow sculpting.

“It’s been unreal. All I did was write a letter and it’s taken on a life of it’s own. It’s part of Canadian culture – you can’t get rid of snow sculptures.”

Aldo Chiappa, a sponsorship official for the City of Ottawa, says groups of sculptors, including the Carleton students, will be holding workshops on snow sculpting at the WinterActive site on Dow’s Lake during the weekends of Winterlude.

WinterActive is a city project replacing the familiar Dow’s Lake sculptures called Ice Dream, which has been cancelled.

Mr. Chiappa said meetings are planned between the city, any interested parties and the NCC to find some way to hold a snow-sculpting competition in 2002.

Mr. Chiappa said if the snow sculptures again become a permanent part of WinterActive, they will be on dry land.

The switch is because the weight of the sculptures on the Dow’s Lake ice has meant “the sculptures tend to sink,” Mr. Chiappa said.

Mr. Chiappa said the Carleton students were pleased with the outsome.

Mr. Pealow agreed, saying, “it was a really productive meeting.”

Those who want to take part in the snow-sculpting workshops on Dow’s Lake can visit the WinterActive site between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekends during Winterlude (Feb. 3-4, 10-11, and 16-27[sic]).

Visitors can also register for a snow-sculpting competition next year.

If you’d like to learn more about the Jeffco Winterlude Snow Sculptures, or see any of the many other photos or sculptor’s resources from the City of Ottawa and Winterlude of years gone by, check out the Jeffco Snow Sculpture, Winterlude Links and Sculptor Resource pages.

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