February 13, 2016 2:39 pm
Updated: February 14, 2016 12:14 am

Winter City welcomes newcomers

WATCH: Edmontonians joined members of the Edmonton Oilers along with the Mayor to teach Syrian refugees about life in a winter city. Sarah Kraus reports.

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EDMONTON- Mayor Don Iveson welcomed more than 1,000 recent newcomers to Edmonton with a winter wonderland festival Saturday afternoon.

Outdoor activities like snow-painting, marshmallow roasting and wagon rides were designed to help introduce newcomers to the ways the Winter City celebrates cold and snow.

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Edmonton Oilers defenceman Andrew Ference was on hand at Rundle Park to show children how to play road hockey. “You want to do everything you can to open your arms and welcome them and show them different parts of our city, our culture. Obviously hockey is a big part of that in Canada and here in Edmonton,” said Ference.

Even though hockey is a foreign game to kids from Syria and other countries, they proved to be naturals.

“We have some, I think it was the first time they picked up a stick and they’re probably going on three hours, playing pass and shooting, they want to take turns in net,” said Ference. “Now they’re going top shelf on me. They’re quick learners that’s for sure.”

The Alkattan family from Syria arrived in Edmonton one month ago, but already, they love it. “Here all the people are smiling, they communicate, they’re friendly,” said Feras Alkattan.
The family of six is eager to settle in and try to carve out lives for themselves. “I was studying English and looking for a university. Searching for a job and making friends,” said Belal Alkattan, Feras’ little brother.

That’s music to Mayor Don Iveson’s ears. He spoke about newcomers being welcome to work for the city, and said the sky is the limit when it comes to what they can do in Edmonton. He joked they could even become the mayor. “This is your city and we’re going to keep building it together,” he said.

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The Mayor’s words resonated with the newcomers who swarmed the him post-speech, looking to say thank you, shake his hand and take pictures.
The Mayor said it’s important to put on a festival for a few reasons… “One, an opportunity to orient people to the services the city has to offer, particularly in terms of recreation, to get people inspired to embrace living in a winter city and also to show our welcome and it looks like we accomplished all our goals today.”

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