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Calgary celebrated its fourth annual Chinook Blast Festival with freezing temperatures for the opening weekend and balmier days and nights throughout. 

After three years of COVID-19 restrictions, organizers from Big Winter Classic, Block Heater, High Performance Rodeo, Ethnik Festival, and many more brought fun for everyone willing to brave the cold. 

The festival ran from Jan. 27 to Feb. 12 and the schedule was full of diverse attractions, including markets, sports, music, art, dance, theatre and live performances.

Events took place across the city, but the heart of the festival was along Stephen Avenue and Olympic Park Plaza, where light and art installations brightened the night. Skate rentals were available at the plaza where skaters enjoyed live musicians, performers and DJs.

Professional ice sculptor Andrew Zoller of Chilly Chisels also made an appearance, carving a jumping race car for Nitro Rallycross on the festival’s first weekend. Onlookers were dazzled by his frosty masterpiece.

“When it’s lit, it creates this sense of magic, like a crystallized magic, the way the light shines through it,” said Zoller.

Andrew Zoller saws away chunks of ice from his emerging sculpture at Chinook Blast. PHOTO: Amie Osness

“It’s fun because you almost get to put on a show for people, and get to show how it works and the things that go into it as they see something come to life.”

Viewers were invited to interact with the art displays, like the piece created by metal artists Kyle Jensen and Ian Rice of True North Absurdities, titled Notorious B.A.D.  The metallic fire-breathing dragon sculpture took nearly 1,000 hours to complete, according to Rice.

“Just being creative, having an outlet, and then getting to share that with people, and then make it interactive,” said Rice. “That’s really what keeps us going on this effort, is bringing people in to enjoy it.”

The dragon’s tail was set up by a walkway into the plaza, so guests could press the button that triggered the flame thrower inside the dragon’s mouth.

“Just seeing that reaction, it really warms our hearts,” said Rice .

Notorious B.A.D. breathes fire for excited onlookers at Chinook Blast. PHOTO: Amie Osness

The executive director of Chinook Blast, Franca Gualtieri, added that one of her favourite parts of the festival was looking into Olympic Park Plaza, full of families, diversity, culture and art to showcase the best of Calgary. There’s something about a winter festival that lifts the spirits, she said.

“It’s nice to be able to light up our downtown, not only with lights, but with music and sounds and art. This year it was absolutely phenomenal.”

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