Iqaluit marks the start of spring without its popular Toonik Tyme festival

The event, held annually to celebrate the arrival of spring, was to be in full swing from Thursday to Sunday. The program included snowmobile races, traditional Inuit games and contests of all kinds, from making clothes to building igloos.

Toonik Tyme is truly a flagship event for us, in Iqaluit, but also for the rest of the region., says city mayor Kenny Bell. Hundreds of people usually come from all over to attend the festival.

It really is an opportunity for us to spend time outdoors. People love spring.

A quote from:Kenny Bell, Mayor of Iqaluit

However, the announcement of a first case in Iqaluit on April 14 prompted health authorities to tighten the screws, banning all outdoor gatherings of more than five people.

The Nunavut Quest sled dog race, which was scheduled to start on April 26, was also canceled. The annual competition was to take place over the 500 km that separate Arctic Bay from Igloolik.

Pitseolak Alainga, president of 123Go !, the non-profit organization that hosts the festival, says he was both surprised and disappointed to hear the news, although he understands the situation.

This is the second time that we have to cancel [le festival], he says. In 2020, the pandemic forced officials to cancel the event for the very first time in its history.

The Toonik Tyme Festival began in Iqaluit in 1965, when the city still bore the name Frobisher Bay. It is very important to us because it takes place in the spring, the best time to get together outside and meet new people., describes Pitseolak Alainga.

Several snowmobiles are parked in a row on the frozen bay of Frobisher.

The snowmobile race to the community of Kimmirut, west of Iqaluit, is one of the most popular events of the Toonik Tyme Festival. This image shows the competition held in 2017.

Photo: CBC / Travis Burke

One of the flagship competitions, he says, is the snowmobile race between Iqaluit and Kimmirut, a community located more than 120 kilometers west of the territorial capital.

Usually the round trip takes around 4 hours, he explains. But it is certain that young people have more adrenaline than older people.

Janelle B. Smith

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