History of WASKIMO

The Waskimo Winter Festival began in 1975. Radio station 620 CKCK was a driving force behind its formation, as were all the other radio and TV stations in Regina, and the Leader-Post newspaper that all came together to make the festival a reality. Media outlets worked closely with the Wascana Centre Authority, community volunteers and a number of corporate sponsors to plan the event, clear the ice on Wascana Lake, and set up the many different activities that were held.

Costumed mascots Waskimo Willy and Waskimo Wendy were the official ambassadors of the festival.

Waskimo was always held on the third Sunday in February, weather permitting. Large crowds would gather to skate on the ice of Wascana Lake and take part in popular events like the Penguin Dip, dog sled races, outhouse races, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and tobogganing. The largest part of Wascana Lake would be cleared for the event around Willow Island and the Legislative Building. Over the years many different events came and went including snowmobile races, motorcycle racing on ice, the Waskimo Fun Run and a huge bonfire of old Christmas trees to help provide some warmth. City buses would park on the ice to serve as warm-up shelters and often there would be tethered hot air balloon rides, ice sailing and ice sculpture competitions.

The last time Waskimo was held was 2003, in advance of the "Big Dig" that dredged and deepened Wascana Lake. After that, aerators and bubblers were installed in the main portion of the lake to help maintain water quality. That rendered the ice largely unsafe in winter. Waskimo's volunteer committees disbanded and the festival never resurfaced, until now, 14 years later with approval to begin using the solid ice surface to the east of the Broad Street bridge known as the East Lake.

Written by Jim Aho, Jan/07