Tuesday, May 20, 2014

how to have an Arctic parade

"We lost Ollie," one of the hamlet workers confided in me urgently. "I'm sure he'll turn up but...I have no idea where he is."

She was talking about Ollie the Omingmak (Innuinaqtun for "muskox"), the muskox mascot for our Omingmak Frolics which had somehow disappeared, hours before the Frolics opening parade was to begin. Apparently a panicked email was sent around the government of Nunavut, frantically trying to locate the costume in time for the festivities.

Eventually, Ollie turned up - at the parade.  Apparently Housing had kidnapped him. Or maybe that was the plan all along. Either way, all is well that ends well.

On the day of the parade, I was craving a slushie. Clearly I am slowly turning into a Northern kid, seeking out sugary ice in -15 degree weather. I was heading for the co-op when my friend persuaded me to just head for the parade, where they'd be giving out freezies. Deal.  I was now on a mission to score some freezies at the parade.

The Omingmak Frolics parade is one of the most fun celebrations of the year, where half the town comes out to cheer on the other half marching in the parade. It's the one time of year where you actually have to worry about traffic in the streets, if you're driving.  The various businesses and community organizations display their floats that go through town...twice....Cambridge Bay is not so big, so to get your full parade festivities' worth, they go around town twice.  Everyone comes out, and the folks in the parade wave and throw candy at the crowd. The kids love this part especially. It's, like, the next best thing to Halloween. The kids excitedly follow the parade around on their bikes, trying to get as much loot as they can. Unfortunately, this time of year is the beginning of mud season, so a lot of the times, that means digging candy out of the mud puddles. But you gotta work for your bounty, right? And what's a little salty dirt with your sweets?

We saw our friend H getting ready at the parade on her awesome Flinstones float. She waved at us.

"Do you have any freezies?" I demanded.
"Hi Gloria!" she greeted. "Are you here to watch the parade?"
"I hear you have freezies. I want a freezie."

She gave me a freezie, but it wasn't frozen.  It was still delicious. I went to go hunt for some more.

Holding a parade in the Arctic is not an easy feat, even when summer is just around the corner.  Any costumes you wear have to be designed to fit over your jacket.  The crowd is diligent in braving the cold weather to stand outside (and collect candy) but when the floats have passed by, we all huddle inside our cars to warm up until the parade comes by again.

This year the floats seemed particularly festive. Clearly folks had spent a lot of time decorating their floats.  One float featured a life-sized stuffed muskox, which was probably life-sized because I imagine it was real.  Another float, sponsored by the Department of Health, featured what I thought was a mannequin that the nurses were administering CPR on, but actually ended up being a real life guy named Ken.


department of health, festively resuscitating 


the elders' bus, keeping the elders nice and warm

i particularly love this float!

It was a fun time. By the end, the parade had kind of splintered off to different routes, everyone going their own way.  The stuffed muskox was looking kind of ragged and falling apart.  Kids were still biking all over town, trying to find whatever candy had been missed.  It was chaos, but a happy kind of chaos.  Also, I ate like five freezies.

photo by kerri