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Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff

Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff

The 2013 Stratford Winterfest organizing committee gathered for a picture outside the Kiwanis Centre Monday afternoon with all the necessary props to promote this year’s theme of Fire & Ice. This year’s event takes place next weekend, Jan. 18-20.

Heat gets turned up for Winterfest

Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff

There is sure to be fire at this year’s Stratford Winterfest, but the question on everyone’s mind is will there be ice?

With temperatures expected to climb to unusually high levels late this week, City of Stratford facilities coordinator  Jeff Otten was remaining optimistic the weather will turn frosty again in time to set up an outdoor skating rink in Lower Queen’s Park for the event, coming up next weekend, Jan. 18-20.

“We have one piece of the  puzzle, snow, so we just need cold weather,” he said, noting city staff were prepared to begin packing snow earlier this week but held off because of the expected thaw.

Should it be warm come next weekend, Otten said the city has made plans to lay down straw in the park, adding there is a full schedule of non-weather-dependent activities to keep families entertained.

This year’s Winterfest theme is Fire & Ice, with the former being delivered by street performer The Fire Guy, whose act, which includes fire juggling and eating, comedy and a stunt show, is sure to warm things up in a hurry.

He will be performing in Lower Queen’s Park Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

The other Winterfest headliner is Bobbi The Wood Carver, who with only a chainsaw will be creating pieces of art from chunks of wood.

She will be performing throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, also in Lower Queen’s Park.

A dedicated team of volunteers have been hard at work over the last 10 months planning this year’s Winterfest, which is expected to draw up to 5,000 people over the three days.

Now in its 15th year, the event is embracing social media by offering a draw for tickets to the Stratford Festival to people who follow Winterfest on Facebook and Twitter. The event is  online at Facebook.com/StratfordWinterfest and   on Twitter at @StratWinter.

New this year is a vintage snowmobile display from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Saturday in Lower Queen’s Park. Up to 12 sleds, some dating back to the 1960s, are expected.

Some of the ongoing activities throughout the weekend will include dog sled rides, a hockey shoot out, ice slide rides, apple land train rides, the Bethel church puppet shows and snow shoeing and pole walking.

There is also a full schedule of off-site activities for both kids and adults alike.

On the Friday there will be a casino night and dinner at Royal Palisade and a Yuk Yuk’s dinner and show at the Arden Park, tickets for which are going fast. On Saturday, the Parlour will host a murder mystery dinner theatre and Sunday kicks off with a pancake breakfast at the Kiwanis Centre.

Things get started on the Friday with live country music at the Kiwanis Centre followed by a fashion show at Festival Marketplace Mall and a big screen showing of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax at the Rotary Complex.

On Saturday there will also be ice carving demonstrations at Marketplace Mall and Memorial Gardens and cross country skiing and glow in the dark curling at the Stratford Country Club.

Returning food vendors include Ken’s French Fries, Pat’s Apple Frits, Tim Hortons, a St. John Ambulance barbecue and Royal Palisade Retirement Community, which will be serving homemade soups and hot chocolate.

Winterfest operates on an annual budget of about $25,000, made possible by a long list of sponsors including the City of Stratford, Royal Palisades and the Stratford Lakeside Active Adults Association.

With just over a week to go, organizers are still in need of volunteers for all three days to help keep the activities running smoothly.

Anyone wanting to help is asked to email volunteer@stratfordwinterfest.ca or to call 519-275-3761.

For further details about 2013 Winterfest, and for a full schedule, visit www.stratfordwinterfest.ca.

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