The annual East Ferris Winter Carnival is once again being hailed a big success with over 12-hundred people enjoying the four-day event.
Chair Jennifer Laporte says volunteers work hard to keep the decades-long tradition alive.
“It started as a Francophone tradition, but the community has obviously diversified over the years. Not all of our community members are French-speaking. So, it is basically a group of people coming together and making it fun,” said Laporte.
“The goal of the carnival is to fundraise. All the proceeds are put back into non-profit community groups.”
Food is a big part of the carnival, whether it is homemade hamburgers, chili or spaghetti dinner.
“And we’re keeping those Francophone roots alive a little bit with our traditional cipaille, (pronounced sea-pie, a layered meat pie) which is a popular dish. We start very early in the week to get it ready.”
Scheduled activities included an ice fishing derby, honouring new members to the East Ferris Sports Hall of Fame, kids’ karaoke and dance, pancake breakfasts, a baking competition, kids movie, free family skate, and activity centre.
Relatively new to the area, Brad Jones and his family enjoy the community spirit.
“We moved here three years ago, and we have been coming every year since. It has been a lot of fun. The kids love it. There is always something to do for the kids like face painting and karate,” said Jones.
Victoria Perron has been attending the carnival since she was just a little girl.
Now she looks forward to sharing the experience with her own children.
“It is a very big family reunion, seeing everyone that I grew up with, travelling from far away and then we all meet here. It is so much fun. And seeing them with little kids now too,” said Perron.
“I love it because my husband plays on the Perron hockey team, and I play on the broomball team, and I can’t wait until they’re old enough to join us. It is a very exciting time and I look forward to it every year.”
The big draw is the hockey tournament, where families are pitted against each other in hockey combat, doing battle for bragging rights and a ball cap.
Looking around it is easy to see the team supporters proudly wearing family crests, knitted sweaters that come out only at carnival time, or matching toques.
“People plan for this all year, and they will take time off to drive here from across the province. So, say one brother is in Ottawa, the other in Toronto, they all meet up at the carnival. The parents come out too. It is all about creating memories. That is the bottom line,” said Laporte.
A total of 20 hockey teams of which 16 are Family Feud teams and four Outlaw teams, competed.
“The Outlaw teams are members of the community who don’t have a big enough family to put a team together in the Family Feud. We also have four broomball teams, which mostly women play. A lot of them are related, but most of them aren’t. So, we have something for them as well,” explained tournament convenor Eric Point.
A rule book on family ties has been developed over the years to determine eligibility based on family ties
“The family picks a forefather, and all the players on the team must be related within five generations of that forefather. We have an exception for a sixth-generation, as long as your father or mother has played previously, “explained Point.
“So, we still have the parent/child playing on the ice at the same time. Our rules of the family tree does not disqualify that. We still want parents to be able to play with their child because it is a family tournament. That is what it is all about.”
Emotions can run high when trying to defend the family name.
“We have four different divisions. It is good hockey. This tournament has been going on since the 70’s and it means a lot to people. So, there is a certain level of competitiveness, I’m not going to deny that,” laughed Point.
“The C and D divisions are more for people who don’t play hockey very often, so they are just out here to have fun with their family.”
The weekend wrapped up with the unveiling of Bonhomme who this year is Carmen Weiskopf
“The costume has been worn by everybody chosen to be Bonhomme over the years. Bonhomme gets selected by a committee. I was Bonhomme one year and it is a huge honour being the celebrity for the week,” explained Laporte.
“It is always a community member, male or female, who does a lot for the community. They travel around to the schools, and to events.”
As people said their good-byes before heading home, promises were made to do it all again next year.