I’ll admit that I have a love-hate relationship with Hamilton Winterfest. A lot of the events would happen regardless of Winterfest- but get the promotion associated with the event, and in turn, the Festival gets to cite its growth and number of activities that it may have very little to do with.
This is the love part- the activities. The variety. I love seeing all of the different and interesting offerings of the city that wouldn’t be known to me otherwise. Like practicing my conversational French before dinner. Or attending that Bulldogs game because it fits into my schedule and I’ve never been. Winterfest- and Hamilton- can be full of opportunities.
And if there’s anything better than trying something new, it’s having a unique experience. One that wouldn’t be available at any other time. Fortunately, Winterfest has a few of them up their sleeve in this year’s edition.
Here are our top five favourite things that we’re pretty sure you’ll only get at this year’s fest.
1. A Customized Murder Mystery
If the recent cold snap has you preferring to stay in, or you’re not quite ready to brave a crowd, Emerson Arts has your ticket. The theatre company is regularly on a creative streak, continually producing original concepts. Their site-specific Halloween-themed performance is one of their most-anticipated each year, so it’s safe to assume that they have mysterious and creepy down to an art. We’re not sure how the virtual, customized murder mystery on February 4 will work- but we’re willing to find out.
2. Outdoor Art and Light Installations Featuring Eight Local Artists
This year’s Winterfest Hub is on the roof of Jackson Square, and to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere- day or night- the normally grey and barren rooftop has been transformed through art. Throughout the February 10-20 fest, expect to see glowing poems, an interactive LED bonfire, woodland creatures coming to life and more. In all, these experiences are made possible through the talents of seventeen different artists/collectives, including a number of familiar Hamilton artists such as Fareh Malik, Douglas Tewksbury, Clear Eyes Collective, Hitoko Okada and more.
3. A Dance and Puppet-filled Exploration of Identity
A little traditional, a little contemporary and a lot of creativity summarizes the work of Shakti Fine Arts. The collaborators of the company work together to create unique experiences that often result in multi-disciplinary artistic collaborations- think music, movement, narrative, theatre and puppetry rolled into one. They’ve been handed the stage of Winterfest on February 11 from 6-10pm to present Stoked. Inspired by fire, there are two times to attend the free event- 6pm and 8pm. Both shows will be a communal effort that focuses on community and identity.
4. Some Old-Fashioned Winter Fun
It wouldn’t be Winterfest without some cold-weather exclusive activities. The Winterfest Hub at Jackson Square will offer onsite skate rentals and an outdoor skating rink throughout the Festival. Artist Nate Nettleton has been commissioned to bring light to the space via an iridescent disco ball. But it’s Gourley Park that’ll bring you back to events of your childhood. From 12-2pm on February 12, the popular mountain park will offer horse and wagon rides, law sawing, a nail driving competition, sledding and more. They’re even selling hamburgers, hot dogs and drinks. Best of all, they’ll also be collecting donations for Neighbour to Neighbour.
5. An Outdoor Winter-themed Drag Show
Local drag queens Karma Kameleon, Hexe Noire, Calypso Cosmic, and Kenadie St. James are bearing the cold for your entertainment as they present an inclusive, all-ages drag performance on February 13. Shows are short and free, with three separate times to enjoy the Winter Eleganza Extravaganza experience- 7pm, 7:45pm and 8:30pm. In addition to the popular drag queens doing what they do best, DJ Eric James will be onhand to supply the music.