© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
Ice sculptor Abe Waterman creates a small face inside a larger face during a demonstration at the outdoor snow kingdom as part of the Jack Frost Children's Winterfest Saturday. While the venue was saved from warm temperatures early in the week, a mild rain on Sunday caused a delayed opening for the snow kingdom on the festival's final day.
Organizers of festival say attendance up over last year
Mild temperatures didn't stop thousands of smiling youngsters from enjoying a winter wonderland this weekend.
Jennifer Paynter, a spokesperson for Jack Frost Children's WinterFest, said that both attendance and feedback from this year's festival seemed promising despite the weather factors.
While organizers have yet to go over final numbers, Paynter said attendance seemed to be up from last year's festival.
"The early indicators are pretty positive that attendance was up," said Paynter. "The hotel packages were up 20 per cent from last year. We were really happy those were up a significant amount."
The hotel packages, which included a two-night stay, VIP passes as well as meet and greets with Disney characters during breakfasts, aimed to attract off-Island visitors to the festival.
Organizers expected a 30 per cent increase in the off-Island visitation for this year's festival, which aims to have an economic impact during a traditionally weak time of the year for P.E.I.'s tourism industry.
Despite the early indicators of success, the festival weekend and days leading up to it proved to be a challenge.
Nearly record-breaking warm temperatures earlier this week raised the first red flag for organizers.
"There were definitely challenges with the warmer temperatures just in keeping and getting enough snow to be able to build the Outdoor Kingdom site," said Paynter, noting the site's many detailed ice sculptures and massive sledding hills. "We had to put tarps over those so they'd be able to bear the conditions."
Because of the preparation and quick thinking, ultimately the only casualty from the festival was the outdoor skating rink.
However, organizers hit another snag with Sunday's warm rain, which caused the outdoor snow kingdom to open at noon instead of the planned 9 a.m. opening.
But organizers had a back-up plan as tickets for the outdoor kingdom were honoured for the indoor playland at EastLink Centre.
A children's live stage at the Eastlink Centre and fun zone in the Confederation Court Mall had a number of live performances through the weekend.
"It's been a great weekend, we've really had a good turnout and lots of kids had a really fun weekend both outside and at the indoor playland," said Paynter.
This year's festival was held by the Hotel Association of P.E.I., with assistance from the City of Charlottetown's Special Events Reserve Fund and Versatile Management Group.
More information of the festival, including next year's already determined dates of Feb. 24-26, can be found at www.jackfrostfestival.com.