Cambridge Bay pulls out of COVID-19 doldrums with big spring festival

·3 min read
Ollie the Umingmak gives a thumbs-up with Cambridge Bay's deputy mayor Derek Elias, decked out in his muskox hat for the Umingmak Frolics parade. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)
Ollie the Umingmak gives a thumbs-up with Cambridge Bay's deputy mayor Derek Elias, decked out in his muskox hat for the Umingmak Frolics parade. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)

Now's the time for people in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, to kick back and enjoy their 24-hour daylight and warmer weather on the way.

Their busy spring festival, the Umingmak Frolics, finally wrapped up Monday after 10 days of activities to celebrate the return of light and warmth in this western Nunavut community.

Naikak Hakongak, 59, has participated in the Frolics for years, and he continued that tradition by competing this year in cross-country and relay races.

The many Frolics events, which also included a parade, talent show, banquet and a fishing derby, saw good participation.

"It's always nice to see a lot of people out at the events," Hakongak said.

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

Volunteers from the snowmobile association and municipal recreational staffers oversaw activities.

"It's worth the effort," said Jim MacEachern, Cambridge Bay's new chief administrative officer.

"The hamlet runs it and does the logistics, organizations and planning but really it's a community event."

During Frolics, MacEachern also pitches in as a volunteer with the Elks Lodge, which serves a community pancake breakfast, runs an elders tent during races and gives away toys to children.

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

After two years of pandemic restrictions that curtailed the Frolics, Cambridge Bay's 2,000 or so residents were ready to get outside and have fun during the events that started May 13 and ended May 23.

Every weekday afternoon at 4 p.m. teams from five local offices and businesses competed in corporate challenges: they ran relay races and played dodgeball on a snow-covered playing field in back of the high school to earn points towards an award.

One afternoon they gathered in the Red Fish studio for artistic challenges, such as painting a muskox with a brush held in their mouth.

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

Some Frolics days came with wind chills of -20 and snowflakes fell during the parade in which Ollie, the Umingmak Frolics muskox mascot, rode in the back of an RCMP truck in police gear.

Cold temperatures and a brisk wind did not stop people of all ages from going on the sea ice in front of the community on Saturday to watch snowmobile races where a BBQ and canteen were set up on the blue-tinged ice near the track.

Many turned out in warm parkas, like Brenda Sitatak who wore the fur-trimmed parka her late mother made her, with a sunburst hood.

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

Sitatak watched the action on the track with concern after one of the participants in the women's relay race hit the side of the track and flipped off her machine.

It was the second snowmobile collision to take place during the various races.

The Frolics have been a tradition in Cambridge Bay for more than 50 years, but were curtailed due to public health restrictions for the past two years.

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

Adriano Lamberti, an employee with Kitikmeot Community Futures Inc., turned out this year to watch all the corporate challenges.

Lamberti arrived in Cambridge Bay in May 2020 having heard it was the best time of the year there due to the Frolics — only to learn events were cancelled. Then in 2021, events were limited to a few virtual events and a scaled-down parade.

"This year I can see what the hype was about," Lamberti said.

"There's a lot of people making up for last time. The town is definitely abuzz. The town is in a better mood, and it's good to see."

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC
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