Bragg Creek will be hosting the inaugural Winter in the Woods Family Festival on Jan. 29 as a fundraising effort for the hamlet's local skating rink and the Bragg Creek Community Association (BCCA).
The event, held at the Bragg Creek Community Centre, will run from 12 to 8 p.m. and will include a series of winter-related outdoor activities to celebrate the rink, which after some effort has been brought back to life for the event.
Brian Robertson, Bragg Creek resident and member of the Bragg Creek Rink Committee – a group of volunteers dedicated to preserving the local rink for future generations – said the committee has been working to make the rink the centrepiece of the community, synonymous with winter fun.
“I think, especially over the last year with COVID, the rink has become a gathering point for people to get some exercise and help with their mental health,” he said. “We thought an outdoor festival was something that would be COVID-friendly, that we could do safely.
“I think with everything that [has been] going on over the past year and a half, people need a chance to get out and go and feel normal again.”
He added the committee had been trying to raise some money to do some upgrades deemed necessary for the rink to grow to its full potential, and in doing so, they came up with the idea of a family-friendly outdoor winter festival.
According to Robertson, he got the idea for the event by thinking back to his childhood and time spent at Winterlude – an annual winter festival held in Ottawa, Ont. He said Bragg Creek is a prime spot for a small-scale winter festival boasting great facilities and amenities.
“We want to use events like Winter in the Woods to show off our amazing community and community spirit,” he said. “And to raise funds to continue to improve our outdoor rink so it can be enjoyed for many years to come.”
In addition to on-ice activities such as a skills competition, a minor hockey game featuring the Bragg Creek Bears, family skate time, human curling, and the signature “Chuck-A-Puck" event, there will be a bonfire, live music, an outdoor artisan market, concession stand, and a beer garden.
Robertson added a local rivalry hockey game featuring teams from Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows is also in the works.
“We have a number of events planned, but the signature event for the on-ice portion is called “Chuck-A-Puck" - a puck toss where the winner will win $1,000,” he said. “There are nine different pucks being sold by nine different businesses throughout Bragg and the business that sells the [winning] puck will win free naming rights for the rink for the year.”
He added when planning for the event began approximately a year ago, the committee was not anticipating that COVID-19 would remain a public health concern, and so many of the initial plans have been altered.
As a result of public health mandates, all events were moved outdoors, including the artisan market and family fun zone sponsored by Franklin Sports.
“There’s going to be all kinds of family games to play like corn hole and ladder ball and that sort of thing where kids can win prizes,” he said. “To help promote it, we also have a scavenger hunt going on the weekends leading up to the event.”
According to event sponsor Dick Koetsier with Gateway Developments, Robertson approached him nearly two years ago, saying he had a plan to create a winter event in Bragg Creek.
“He’s a very community-minded person and worked with the community centre on the rink committee side,” Koetsier said. “He didn’t know what [the event] was going to be called yet, but had some ideas.
“I think it’s fantastic – our community needs stuff like this.”
Despite the pandemic placing a hold on Robertson’s plans for the event, Koetsier said he kept the ball rolling, and after the provision of some “seed capital” from Gateway Developments, planning was underway.
“We are a winter playground for Calgary,” he said, adding folks from far and wide come out to Bragg Creek to enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during the winter months. “We are an outdoor winter playground and why not have an annual event to celebrate that?
“We’re hoping it will gain momentum and grow through the years.”
Admission to Winter in the Woods Family Festival is by donation. For additional information, visit the event’s Facebook page.