Log carver Michael Penny was hard at work transforming this log into a work of art. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

Downtown events a huge hit for Griz Days festival

All of the Griz Days events on Saturday were based in the downtown core

As bleary eyed Fernieites woke up on Saturday morning, they were greeted with a true Griz Days miracle. A fresh layer of pristine white snow covered everything in sight, a welcome change from the warm temperatures and brown splotches seen around town lately.

As the snowfall continued throughout the day, it seemed as if the mythical mountain man, the Griz himself, was blessing the festivities.

The first event of the day helped to fuel festival goers up for the rest of the various winter themed activities during the day. The Griz Flapjack Breakfast was held at the Fernie Senior’s Centre and for only $7, residents were treated to a delicious stack of pancakes. After fueling up, there was plenty of activities to keep people occupied during the day.

The Griz Days Community Craft Fair saw both vendors and shoppers packed into the Fernie Community Centre as a brief respite from the falling snow. Local vendors displayed everything from handmade soaps and jewelry to paintings, textiles and baked goods. As they shopped, residents were in for a treat of another kind. The ever entertaining Baby Griz Crawl took place at noon on the stage of the community centre and was a welcome distraction for shoppers.

Parents urged their babies, dressed in flannel shirts and fur hats, along a rainbow coloured mat to compete for the ultimate title of Griz baby extraordinaire. The babies crawled their hearts out in several rounds of joy inducing entertainment before finally tiring and calling it quits for the day.

At approximately the same time, another Griz competition was getting underway just down the street. The Extreme Griz competition kicked off with an obstacle course in Rotary Park and proceeded with a variety of activities throughout the day meant to test the grisliness of the Griz wannabes. Twenty men and women competed in a keg toss, tug of war, log sawing competition, axe throwing and more. Right before the parade the male and female extreme Griz were crowned. Straun Loken and Alex Simons will hold bragging rights as the winners until next year’s competition.

Although events were taking place in several venues around town, Second Avenue was undoubtedly the hub of activity on Saturday afternoon. With several street blocks closed off for the festivities, community members milled about, taking in all of the various events.

Peter Vogelaar and Lesley Mayfield, internationally recognized snow sculptors, worked furiously on a snowy likeness of the Griz while onlookers admired their techniques and skills. As snow fell down around them, the pair attacked a pile of snow with their tools, slowly carving away the excess until the Griz’s face beamed proudly down main street.

Just down the street, the next generation of Griz hopefuls played around in the Junior Griz training grounds. Hosted by the Elk Valley Gymnastics Club, the training grounds were covered with kids and teens testing their mettle. Afterwards, many of them grabbed a bite to eat from the barbecue trailer on site.

Another type of sculpting was also taking place on Second Avenue. Local log carver Michael Penny could be seen working on his various carving projects, with the sound of power tools resounding through the frosty air and wood chips falling to the ground.

Even from Second Avenue, you could hear the battle cries of the Elk Valley Rugby Club all the way from City Hall where they played a friendly scrimmage in the snow. Members of the club invited people of all shapes and sizes to come and try out the sport. They certainly lived up to their mandate as grown adults ran beside two-foot-tall toddlers in the snow, tossing a frosty rugby ball between them.

Things really started getting exciting at around 3 p.m. with the beginning of the Smoosh Ski Races down Second Avenue. This resurrected heritage event was followed closely by another, the Griz Days Bed Races.

Despite the fact that one of the vintage beds fell to pieces shortly after the start of the event, the Bed Races were a huge success. Several teams, someone of whom were decked out in full costumes, competed in time trials of the race course on Second Avenue. In the end, the Urban Settler team came in first place, with a time of 13.86 seconds.

After all of the main street activities, festival goers made their way to Station Square. They watched as the Griz contestants were crowned and the winners of the Bed Races were announced before stopping to watch the Rocky Mountain Lumberjack Show. Lumberjacks showed off their axe skills in front of the cheering crowd and sent wood chips flying high into the air.

After that, it was time for the Light Up The Night Parade. Businesses, organizations and community groups walked boldly along the parade route, waving to residents and proudly celebrating Griz Days. Several of the groups and floats in the parade played with the theme of light up the night, adding colourful bright lights to their displays.

For residents not already exhausted from the slate of fun activities on Saturday, there was yet another lumberjack show at 7:30 and a dance party with local band, The Hip Flexers rocking out on the Station Square stage. Many Fernie residents bopped around to the high energy music until the final event of the night started up.

As a celebration of good snow and good fun on Saturday for Griz Days, there was a stellar fireworks show for the grand finale of the day. With the fireworks fading from the night sky and the last of The Hip Flexer’s music notes drifting on the winter breeze, Fernie residents trekked back to their homes to rest their heads on their pillows and rest up for another activity packed day on Sunday.


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Two rugby players battle it out on a snowy pitch at city hall on Saturday afternoon.

The snowy rugby game was open to players of all shapes and sizes, even the tiny ones. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

A rugby player tosses a frosty ball to a teammate in front of city hall on Saturday afternoon. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

Peter Vogelaar smiles as he works on a huge snow sculpture of the Griz. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

The finished Griz sculpture was one display on Second Avenue and in the Light up the Night parade. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

The baby Grizes get ready to compete at the community centre on Saturday. Soranne Floarea/The Free Press

The contestant of the Baby Griz Crawl pose alongside their parents and coaches. Soranne Floarea/The Free Press

The community centre was full of unique finds at the Craft Fair on Saturday during Griz Days. Soranne Floarea/The Free Press

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