Regina’s Waskimo Winter Festival cancelled this year

File / Global News

Regina’s Waskimo Winter Festival isn’t happening this year. The festival’s board of directors made the announcement on Monday morning.

The decision comes after the Provincial Capital Commission (PCC) banned all on-ice activities earlier this month, due to environmental concerns.

“Unfortunately, it happened late enough in the year (2019), that we didn’t have time to regroup ourselves,” said Jeremy Parnes, Waskimo board chair.

READ MORE: Provincial Capital Commission puts ice events on hold for 2020 Waskimo Winter Festival

“We realized the best thing we can do is say, ‘Okay, let’s call it for 2020, and let’s start – as soon as possible – to rethink how we bring Waskimo back in 2021 and on.”

Public skating, two speed skating competitions and Hole-ympic outhouse races were among events impacted by the restrictions.

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“Waskimo, by its very essence, has always been an on-ice festival in Regina, on the lake,” said Pernes.

“It’s the one opportunity that we’ve had to actually have our community skating on the lake in the winter, actually coming out on the lake in winter.”

Waskimo board to work with PCC

Parnes said the volunteer board is committed to working with the PCC in hopes to bring back the festival next year.

“Three years ago was the first time we had Waskimo after a 14-year layoff. So we were able to do it then, and we had three great years, I think it’s fair to say we’ll figure out a way to do it again,” he said.

In a statement issued in early January, the PCC said that the location of Waskimo’s ice surface “is no longer ecologically sustainable from a long-term perspective for the Wascana Marsh area, which includes a federally designated migratory bird sanctuary.”

In an e-mail Monday, the commission explained that shoreline degradation caused by the ice surface directly impacts the nesting habitat, food and protection for waterfowl.

“We are sad to see the event cancelled by the organizers, but we certainly look forward to working with them on an environmentally sustainable solution in future years,” the PCC stated.

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READ MORE: Regina’s Waskimo Winter Festival returns for 2019 with a rare opportunity

The commission had offered the festival an on-land ice surface, west of Broad Street, to use for free and an additional $5,000 in funding to apply to the rental costs of the facility.

Parnes said the board was appreciative of the offer, however, moving events on-land didn’t suit the vision for the festival.

“The reality is that’s really not what Waskimo is,” he said.

“We look forward to working together (with the PCC) closely, getting together and getting creative, to bring it back in a way that works for the long term.”

In an email statement, the City of Regina said its “hopeful that the festival will continue into the future as it is a great family event.”