Ice walls and fire columns to transform Quad

Public festival promises bright ideas and frosty fun to kick off Alumni Association’s centenary celebrations.


(Edmonton) With the dark and cold of January well upon us, Edmontonians are ready for a little warmth and light. To help brighten up spirits, the University of Alberta’s Quad on North Campus is being transformed into a welcome oasis of light, fire and snow for Green & Glow Winterfest.

The three-day winter festival, running Jan. 29–31, launches a year of special events to celebrate the U of A Alumni Association’s 100th anniversary in 2015. The public festival puts the spotlight on alumni accomplishments, creativity and leadership with a mix of entertainment, art, science and winter culture, all combined in a sensory experience of sight and sound. Festivalgoers will experience custom light and art installations, soundscapes, an ice bar, and plenty of family-friendly activities. They can even expect one of the largest ice structures ever built in Edmonton and a 30-foot column of fire.


Artist and alumnus Dylan (Toymaker) George, one of more than a dozen artists bringing their creative works to the celebrations, has designed a garden of light for Quad. He has also created custom lanterns for use in a light parade planned to take place through Quad on the Friday evening.

“Light can create a particularly immersive experience,” said George. “Festivals like Green & Glow allow people to let go of the preconceptions and established relationships of their everyday lives [by creating] opportunities for fresh new meetings and relationships.”

The focus on winter activities aligns with the City of Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy, meant to encourage residents to embrace the season.

Having a winter festival on campus provides an opportunity to celebrate with students, alumni, staff and the community, and to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy our campus in a unique, fun way,” said Robert Moyles, interim associate vice-president of Alumni Relations.

“Our first alumni came together with the belief that they could do more together than separately—a belief in their shared values and university experience,” said Moyles. “That desire to contribute more to the world became possible because they came together as a community. One hundred years later, they continue to ‘Do Great Things.’”

What’s happening at Winterfest

  • Opening lecture: Science celebrity and U of A alumnus Dan Riskin, co-host of Discovery’s Daily Planet, will thrill audiences with stories about cool science … and his U of A experience. ($10; Convocation Hall. Register online)
  • Pyrotechnics and 30-foot flame columns: Tom Comet is an expert in circus, stunts and special effects, with more than 20 years’ experience designing entertaining methods of burning and blowing things up. He adds pyrotechnic colour to the night sky (7 p.m. Friday) and towering flame to Quad (Saturday).
  • Soundscape: U of A professor and sound artist Scott Smallwood has combined electro-acoustic sounds, field recordings and computer-generated mixes to create a one-of-a-kind soundscape in Quad, promising an epic quadrophonic sound experience.
  • Custom light and art installations: Using reclaimed lights from a recent U of A student residence renovation, artist Dylan Toymaker has designed a garden of light. He’s also created 100 custom lanterns for a Friday night light parade. Complementing the beautiful lights, tucked among a grove of trees, is a series of outdoor miniature exhibits designed by Memi von Gaza.
  • Audio reactive light and word display: Engineering alumnus Will Bauer and his team from Moment Research have created an original audio reactive media art piece that integrates text, visuals, 3-D modelling and audience participation.
  • Ice wall and ice bar: More than 6,000 pounds of ice and snow will transform the winter landscape into an ice wall 20 feet long and 12 feet high—one of the largest ice structures ever built in Edmonton. Led by Matt Vest, the building and carving team will take three weeks to create this stunning backdrop. And the ice bar will be created by the award-winning carving team of Ritchie Velthuis and Stuart Ballah of the Silver Skate Festival.
  • Warming huts: Check out winning entries from a design competition for warming huts. Huts are a hot trend in northern communities exploring ways to make outdoor recreation spaces accessible year-round.
  • Access to the U of A Observatory: The world-class observatory in the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science will be open to the public, and special guests from the Aboriginal community will be on hand to share stories about the meaning of the stars.

There will also be a snowball throw, student-led play activities and science experiments, musical performances, slam poetry, roving artists and cultural displays throughout the festival.

For the full schedule of events and more info, visit uab.ca/winterfest