Apropos of the name, a Chinook blast gusted in the opening day of the Chinook Blast winter festival on Friday.
Taking in the balmy February weather, festival-goers were treated to art, lights, concerts, and skating at Olympic Plaza.
Local artists were especially happy to be able to show off their creations to the public again.
“Yeah, this is a blast. I mean, to play up that word,” said Ian Rice, a maker with True North Absurdities.
“It’s a blessing, honestly, because there weren’t things like this for a long time. It’s a total blessing to be down, to be showcasing our art, and to be around awesome people again. The whole thing is great,” he said.
Rice, and co-maker Kyle Jensen, had their fire-breathing dragon on display in the Arts Commons. The steel behemoth spewed fireballs at the command of festival participants.
The dragon burns approximately 200 pounds of propane a night and has been previously featured at Beakerhead. It took over 1,000 hours to build out of cold-rolled steel.
The dragon was showcased alongside some of the iconic light-up bricks introduced for last year’s Chinook Blast, and the Forest Guides light-up animals.
And in recognition of the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing, the Calgary Tower was lit up by both the torch and Olympic coloured lights.
Chinook Blast an opportunity to build local arts scene
Rice said that Chinook Blast featuring local Calgary artists, as opposed to bringing in artists from outside of the city, has been really important to help re-build the local arts scene.
“We had to make something. We had to express ourselves creatively, whether it would be a Beakerhead, or a Chinook Blast or something like that,” he said.
“It’s really only through that community that it even allows us to even know about these things, because the other part is that they don’t know about u,s or we don’t know about them, and it’s not always easy to network in this kind of sphere.”
That local connection has helped True North Absurdities to find bookings like Chinook Blast.
“Fortunately, we are kind of surrounded by creative people here in Calgary who have just been making stuff and encouraging us to keep making stuff—and these are some of the same people who help us get bookings like this, because we’re completely unknown,” said Rice.
That networking is helping to build a bigger community of artists able to put on maker shows. Rice said that he would be working to help other makers to help build that community.
“I feel like the best thing we can do for it all is just be inclusive, be transparent, and invite people to build with us,” he said.
Working with the city, putting on a safe show
The True North Absurdities duo has even so far as to certify that their dragon is safe. Rice is a ticketed gas fitter, and the Calgary Fire Department inspected the dragon.
“We almost went as far as getting it CSA approved, but it turns out when you dismantle it all to travel that it’s no longer approved,” said Rice.
“We would have gone even that far, but yeah, we’ve we’ve literally done everything that we can to do this as safely as we can.”
Doing things right, said Rice, has helped to make it easier for the maker community to put their creations on display. He said that in the past there have been artists who have come to Calgary and have not respected the Calgary Fire Department’s desire for safety.
“That was just an example of somebody wanting to play by their own rules, not really listening to city officials, and it was to the detriment of the whole art community here because the next time we wanted to do something fire-related, a bad experience kind of tainted that whole thing for us,” said Rice.
“So that almost that set us back several years and trying to get people to talk to us again to entertain the idea of fire in the city to let them know and show them that we’re doing it safely, so that was a big setback,” he said.
Laser lights offer new way of looking at City Hall
Old City Hall will once again be the site of a unique laser and music show.
Designed by Cam MacNeill with Void Design Studio, the south side of City Hall facing the plaza was lit up by a bank of six laser projectors in time to some Canadian electronic dance tracks.
“It’s very surreal being here, and I was born here in Calgary, so it’s just to me it’s very meaningful to be able to bring some of my art to a building that’s been here for so long,” said MacNeill.
“I’m very excited about it.”
MacNeill said that the show incorporates all of the architectural features of Old City Hall, which finished extensive renovations in 2020.
“The show is inspired by the actual structure, first and foremost,” he said.
He said that the show uses a lot of green and white coloured lasers for brightness to really showcase some of the interesting features on Old City Hall like the windows and the roof line. He said that this really makes the features stand out.
The show will be on Wednesday through Sunday, for the next four weeks. MacNeill said that although he has incorporated a smoke machine to help make the lasers stand out, any kind of snowfall would make for a very impressive display that Calgarians shouldn’t miss.