Yellowknife snow castle succumbs to Mother Nature, closing festival a week early

After noting ankle-deep water around the snow castle on Yellowknife Bay, Snowking Winter Festival organizers decided to shut down the month-long festival, a week early. 

On Saturday, Snowking Tony Foliot told CBC he's getting a second opinion on whether it's "time to pull the plug" on the festival, after flooding in the castle's courtyard.

"We've had to call it," said Janna Graham, program co-ordinator for the festival, on Sunday. "The water is now seeping into the hall, and it's slushy in parts and a skating rink in other parts."

Graham said the remaining events and performances have been cancelled, but organizers are discussing an alternative venue for the last show featuring Ray Lemelin, a blues band coming in from B.C.

Sometimes you have to listen to Mother Nature. - Janna Graham, Snowking Winter Festival's program co-ordinator

Graham said in the next few days, organizers will start looking at ways to raise money to pay staff and to build up its coffers for next year's events.

"Sometimes you have to listen to Mother Nature," said Graham.

"It's sad, but at the same time we're OK with it as long as we can figure out how to lick our wounds and recoup our losses."

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Graham said discussions may happen for the option of opening the snow castle earlier in February, but for her personally, it's not something she wants to see happen. 

"March in the North is traditionally 'the time' when people come out," she said. "But the climate is changing... That's the tragedy in all of this."

Born and raised Yellowknifer Brie O'Keefe said she remembers when the castle began, and "love[s] what it's grown into." O'Keefe's band Flora and the Fireweeds played at the castle earlier this month.

"I just hated the idea that this weather might impact next year," O'Keefe told CBC in a Facebook message. She started a GoFundMe for the festival on Saturday and within 12 hours, it raised more than $1,000.

The snow castle faced temporary daytime closures starting Tuesday because of unusually warm weather.

"We're gonna be rocking it tonight with the Heavyweights Brass Band," said Foliot, in a public Facebook video update Saturday afternoon. 

The concert marked the last of the castle's festivities for its 24th season.

"This is your last chance... The last kick of the can," said Foliot, standing in front of the flooded front doors of the castle.

It's the first time in the Snowking Winter Festival's 24-season history that warm weather forced closures and threatened the castle's structure, a news release stated on Monday.

The festival was scheduled to run from March 2 to 31. 

People can keep updated on the last concert on the festival's Facebook page.