Winter Carnival is back in Kanesatake

Get out your pen: whether you’re a fan of friendly competition or just craving some quality time with your fellow Kanehsata’kehró:non, there’s tons for you to circle on this year’s Winter Carnival calendar.

“We have pretty much two weeks filled with fun and action,” said Jadyn Lauder, child and youth program coordinator at the Kanesatake Health Center (KHC), which hosts the event.

The carnival officially kicks off on February 6 and February 7 with the launch of two photo submission contests: “most unique snowman” – a fresh take on last year’s tallest snowman competition – and “Valentine’s Day baking.” The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony following a spaghetti supper on February 19 to close out the carnival season.

But whereas last year organizers had to lean heavily on virtual events to deal with a global surge of COVID-19, this year’s festivities will place a much greater emphasis on in-person interaction. Starting with February 8’s “blind volleyball,” when a tarp will keep players guessing and scrambling, everything takes place in person.

“We’ve been very limited the past few years,” said Lauder. “I wanted to go ahead and try to really encourage people coming together, encourage more community, encourage more people having fun and coming out with their friends.”

To broaden participation, events were chosen to appeal to a variety of demographics. Lauder named the broomball tournament on February 11 as a favourite among adults, while something like giant game night on February 13 is geared toward the kids.

“It’s a really good chance for more young moms to come out and families to really come together as one,” said Lauder.

While she is partial to competitive sports, one of the events Lauder is looking forward to most is ice fishing on February 12. “I love that event,” she said. “It’s really nice for everybody to come out and do a winter sport that normally people don’t do.”

In general, Lauder’s team has been working to bring back community favourites while experimenting with the program. Some new activities include a Valentine’s Day formal dance for grades one to six on February 10 and an elders’ luncheon and social on February 17.

An instant classic from last year, the “Amazing Race,” returns on February 18. The event is named after a hit reality show in which teams of contestants embark on a race across the globe.

“Last year was a challenge, and I can't wait to see what they have in store for this year,” said Mohawk Council of Kanesatake chief Amy Beauvais, who will be competing in the event alongside her son Spencer.

Beauvais has been a stalwart Winter Carnival fan for years, even performing in the talent show multiple times, an event she hopes to see return in the future.

“The Winter Carnival is such a wonderful festive initiative for the community,” said Beauvais. “It's a great way to get moving and bond with other members... What helps these activities is the engagement of the community. Let's celebrate together!”

“We have to embrace these things – events, bingo – whatever brings people together and able to talk face to face,” said Kanehsata’kehró:non Brenda Etienne, who will be attending the new elders’ luncheon and social.

She noted how technology has changed the way families interact for the worse, something she wants to see improve.

“Any activities for all age levels are good. I just want to interact with fellow community members,” Etienne said.

Some events require Kanehsata’kehró:non to register by calling 450-479-6897.

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door