Meghan Walker left and Jessalynn Thompson make tea for each other in the outdoor kitchen at the inaugural Hardwater Festival lat year. The day long event which was a celebration of ice included winter activities games ice climbing snowshoeing and an outdoor kitchen. /File photo by ANGELICA INGRAM Staff

Hardwater Festival to embrace winter weather

By Nate Smelle

Published Jan. 23 2018

On Saturday Jan. 27 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. the municipality of Dysart et al will be hosting its second annual Hardwater Festival. Part of the municipality’s Explore Our Lakes initiative the celebration of ice (and snow) brings together a wide range of winter activities with the goal of fostering fun and safe use of lakes in winter as well as ecological protection. The West Guilford Community Centre will act as the hub for the festival with Abbey Gardens serving as the other venue.

Experiential tourism expert Barrie Martin of Yours Outdoors has been working with the municipality to build on the inaugural festival last year. As the project manager of the festival Martin said it is incredible to see how much it has already grown in its second year.

Martin said that Abbey Gardens is going to be hosting a series of snowshoeing races which will feature one- three- and five-kilometre courses. Algonquin Outfitters will also be onsite with several “fat bikes” for people to try peddling on the ice and snow. Medeba Outdoor Adventure Learning Centre will also be offering ice climbing lessons for $10 where participants will have the chance to climb a 15-metre tall manmade ice tower.

Some of the other exciting outdoor activities featured at this year’s festival are ice fishing skating broomball and ice sculpture by renowned ice carver and sculptor Mike Muli. Guitarist Nick Russell and bassist Dylan White will be performing cool jazz while the Haliburton Highlands Brewing Company provides the suds at the ice bar.

“There will be lots of fun and plenty of learning opportunities as well.”

One new addition to the line-up of events in 2018 is the Ice Hut Makeover contest sponsored by ACM Designs. The grand prize for the winning ice hut consists of prizes donated by local businesses worth $4500.

Yet another interesting and creative development to take place in 2018 Martin said is snow-tagging. To celebrate Canada 150 Parks Canada had a team of artists creating snow-tags in parks across the country. Martin described snow-tagging as like a “painting in the snow” where artists create a large-scale image in the snow that can be seen from overhead by a drone or from an elevated view.

Funding for the festival has been provided through a grant from the Ontario Sport Recreation and Communities Fund. Martin acknowledged that the growth of the event this year is possible through the many generous community sponsors supporting the event. Educational opportunities at the festival include traditional and modern winter camping demonstrations; documentary film screenings; a workshop on wildlife in the winter Below Zero Critters in the Cold; winter survival skills; lake ecology and ice science workshop; and ice safety training.

Dysart’s recreation program co-ordinator Andrea Mueller said the main focus of the Hardwater Festival is to promote ice safety. Living in a community that is surrounded by water – lakes rivers ponds and wetlands – she said it is important for people to know what to do in the case of an on-ice emergency. The introduction to ice safety course being offered at the festival will also highlight the qualities of ice so people know when the ice is safe to venture out on.

“The reality is if somebody gets trapped under the ice or falls into cold lake water – even if they are just submerged up to their waist – there are many things they need to know so they can protect themselves” said Mueller.

“This course will train people how to deal with hypothermia; or if they do find themselves in freezing water it will teach them how to get out safely. People will also learn if they fall under the ice how to protect themselves.”

Since space is limited Mueller recommends pre-registering for the ice safety course as well as the snowshoe race and ice climbing. To register for activities and for a full schedule of events at the 2018 Hardwater Festival visit:; or contact Dysart’s recreation program coordinator Andrea Mueller at 705-754-1740 ext.35.