This January, 2019 come out to Caledon for a winter festival that is anything but run-of-the-mill—the Alton Mill, that is.
Returning for its tenth year, the Fire and Ice Festival at the Alton Mill Creative Arts Centre celebrates the joy of all things winter. It is an event for all ages, with indoor and outdoor activities designed to celebrate both winter itself and the core focus of the gallery—the arts. At a time of year when people are hunkering down beneath heated roofs to wait out the cold until spring returns, the Alton Mill invites you to rediscover the sheer joy of the one season which is a fundamental aspect of our True North identity here in Canada.
The Fire and Ice Festival is described as an “authentic winter experience” by Jeremy Grant who, together with his brother Jordan, restored the once crumbling 1881 landmark and now operates the event. “It is a way to get people out of their houses in the depth of winter to embrace the season,” he says. Over the years the festival has grown, with this year featuring a significant increase of outdoor programming.
For its first few seasons, Jeremy admits that the festival was a modest event, with only a few hundred attendees. But thanks to expanded experiences and the much-appreciated word-of-mouth support from those guests who come year after year, the Fire and Ice Festival now sees close to two thousand people over the course of its two-day run.
This year visitors can expect to enjoy activities like the Super Snow Slide—a custom built, kid-friendly luge run. There will be live ice carving by local artists, and a photography contest open to all, with winners being invited to display their work in the gallery. Food trucks will be on-site along side the Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey Station (a third-time sponsor of the event). And, weather permitting, the mill pond will host a curling rink, a nighttime skate, and the tenth annual Mill Pond Hockey Classic. This last event is a ticketed fundraiser, with proceeds going to the mill pond restoration project.
Most awe inspiring of all is the main event, the display for which the festival is named: the renowned Fire Sculpture crafted by Erin native Brian Oates. No one knows what visually stunning piece this artist has dreamed up for this year’s festival, but it will be unveiled on the Saturday of the event.
“The Fire Sculpture is what people really gravitate to,” Jeremy Grant states. “It’s always spectacular to see. And it’s something artistic that encourages a communal experience, which is what we’re all about here at Alton Mill.”
Of course, one of the biggest challenges the festival faces is the weather. Without an extended period of cold, programs like The Mill Pond Hockey Classic, the curling rink and the custom luge run can’t be held. Our fingers are crossed that we see some of that renowned True North winter weather. “It’s funny,” Jeremy says. “Since the beginning of winter, I’ve been watching for the snow and the ice and the cold, which everyone grumbles about. But that’s exactly the kind of weather that makes this event so spectacular. It’s quite ironic.”
Jeremy does note that even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, the festival still has lots to offer. There’s an entire indoor portion that focuses on the gallery and the artists who reside there. The Village of Alton itself is a must-see, as well. It is a beautiful setting, tucked away into the northwest corner of Caledon. The Alton Mill is a heritage building located beside Shaw’s Creek, and is connected by a trail system to the Millcroft Inn and Spa.
If you’re looking for winter fun that the whole family can experience together, visit the Fire and Ice Festival at the Alton Mill Creative Arts Centre, located at 1402 Queen St. W., in Caledon. Festivities are scheduled to be held on Saturday, January 20th from noon to 8 p.m., and Sunday, January 21st from noon to 5 p.m. For further details, visit www.altonmill.ca or call (519) 941-9300.
Highlights of This Year’s Festival Programming
- Fire Sculpture
- Blacksmith demonstration
- Face painting, henna tattoos and balloon animals
- Nature forest walk
- Photography contest for visitors
- Live ice carving
- Kid-friendly Super Snow Slide
- Alabaster Farms petting zoo
- Mill Pond curling rink
- 10th annual Mill Pond Hockey Classic
- Night-time skating
- Hot Stove Lounge live broadcast of NHL game
- Food trucks and vendor sampling
- Gallery exhibitions
- Artist workshops
- Fireball Whiskey station
Story by Katherine Ryalen