In the Kivalliq, springtime — and Pakallak Tyme — is family time

·3 min read
Racers line up for the women's final on the morning of April 29. (April Hudson/CBC - image credit)
Racers line up for the women's final on the morning of April 29. (April Hudson/CBC - image credit)

As the last days of April came and went, families converged on Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, for a celebration of spring.

Pakallak Tyme, an annual festival known for its snowmobile races, sculpture contests, singing and dancing was in full swing. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the festival welcomed people from around the Kivalliq region of Nunavut and beyond.

"It's the most exciting day of the year," said Sally Cormier-Ittinuar the morning of April 29, as she sat in her truck watching snowmobilers race around a loop.

The Rankin Inlet resident said it was nice to see kids playing and families getting together to socialize.

"We've suffered for two years without Pakallak Tyme, so it's nice to see people out and enjoying themselves," she said.

April Hudson/CBC
April Hudson/CBC

It was a beautiful spring day: the sun shone, the wind howled, engines roared and spectators drowned it all out with claps and cheers for the racers on the track. Some stood in truck boxes, peering over the cab to watch the races, while others broke out the binoculars to get a better view.

Johnny Issaluk, who spent the past few years living in Ontario, said being back among friends and family felt good.

"I was watching, yesterday, all the races — it was amazing, just gets your blood pumping," he said.

Being back up North for spring means he's been able to eat caribou again, and seal and ptarmigan.

"The spring here is family time, you know — everybody goes out. Springtime is the best time for all the families to go hunting, be together, eat together," he said.

"I feel good right now."

April Hudson/CBC
April Hudson/CBC

The races on April 29, 30 and May 1, drew a big crowd and more than 70 snowmobile racers to compete in the Kivalliq Snow Challenge — a record number, according to Noel Kaludjak.

About 12 members of his family competed.

"We have a long history of racing in our family, and it's just continuing. There's more and more of us, right from 65 down to 16," he said.

"Win or lose ... it's a lot of fun."

The festival came at the end of a long and cold winter, he added, making it an important time to celebrate.

"We want to get out and enjoy the weather, the sunshine, just enjoy being with family around here, especially after COVID."

April Hudson/CBC
April Hudson/CBC

For spectators and racers who got hungry throughout the day, Rosemary Sandy busied herself in a shack cooking up chili and tuktu (caribou) stew. She had coffee and tea on offer as well — something she's been doing for about five years now.

A self-described "people person," Sandy said the festival was an important time for people to get outside. Offering them a meal helped keep them from having to run back to town to eat.

"People are pretty happy with it and they love my cooking," she said.

April Hudson/CBC
April Hudson/CBC

Dale Smutylo, watching the races from the warmth of his truck, said he's looking forward to temperatures warming up further so he can break out his ATV.

That Saturday morning, temperatures in Rankin Inlet hovered around -15 C, though the wind made that feel more like -28 C.

"It's nice to see the races out here and stuff like that, people having a good time, because some years the weather isn't this nice," he said.

He's also looking forward to casting a line at the upcoming fishing derby later in May.

"It's my birthday this month. I never catch a fish on my birthday, but I always hope," he laughed.

The festival, which began April 25, included square dancing, scavenger hunts and other games. It wrapped up May 1.

April Hudson/CBC
April Hudson/CBC