The Mega Indoor Tailgate Super Bowl Party of Awesomeness & Excellence – A New Iqaluit Tradition & a Sad Farewell

In February of 2011 Suzanne and I decided to host a small get-together for the Super Bowl. We were only a 3 short months into our extraordinary stay here but wanted to do something for our amazing new friends that welcomed us to this city with open arms. I was never the party guru type of guy down south. I was always better at attending parties rather than hosting. I have a passion for food and American football though. The fact that I’m living in the Land of the Puck made the concept of a “Super Bowl” party unrealistic… or so I thought. Nevertheless we executed it and had a pretty sweet time – even though the majority of the people in attendance didn’t know or care about the game.

Super Bowl 2011The positive feedback we received inspired us to “kick it up a notch” and do it again the following year. As fate would have it my team was on a collision course with the Super Bowl so it was imperative that we make the party much more than a gathering. We needed to make it an event. And an event it was. It reminded me of the party thrown in Weird Science. Standing room only in our tiny one bedroom apartment but that didn’t stop people from having a good time. People feasted, imbibed in the sprits and delighted in conversation as the Super Bowl played out. To my amazement, people were actually watching and following the game at some point. Although I didn’t get to see much of the actual game (being locked in the kitchen belting out food deliciousness) it was still a grand experience. As a long time die hard New York Giants fan having the opportunity to celebrate a victory amongst my friends (and stick it to the Patriots fans in the house) was the bee’s knees.

Super Bowl 2012That was where the legend was born. In the days and weeks that followed we started to hear the chatter about the party. People were flabbergasted by the food. Many were scorned from having not been invited after hearing the rumors. Humbling to say the least. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to evolve as much it did in such a short amount of time. A simple love for food and football spawned into a cult phenomenon of sorts. We’re not the kind of people who rest on their laurels so; of course, we had to take the 3rd annual party to yet another level.

It took months of planning and many dollars to pull off but we somehow managed to top what we did last year. How on Earth we managed to fit about 30 people in our place is a mystery that will baffle physicists all over the world. The 3rd Annual Mega Indoor Tailgate Super Bowl Party of Awesomeness & Excellence featured a super fantabulous food preparation crew (aptly dubbed The Minions) and a spread that literally KO’d every single person. My patented Super Bowl chili was served in large Tim Horton’s coffee cups to further enhance the “tailgate” theme. It marked the first time in my history of making it that there were no leftovers. Absolutely obliterated. Course there were way more people than ever so I guess I’m just gonna have to get a bigger pot. Pulled pork, Muskox sliders, mini tacos, one bite tater skins, mac ‘n cheese, and mozzarella sticks went over well. Pizza puffs, spring rolls and hors d’oeuvres didn’t even get cooked. As always though the deep fried pickles and Jalapeño popper dip drew rave reviews. Receiving praise from our peers about the food makes all the hard work that goes into it that much sweeter.

Super Bowl 2013 #1Super Bowl 2013 #2Speaking of hard work, that brings me to the sobering portion of the festivities. There is a young lady who has gone above and beyond when it comes to not only helping out come party time, but anytime in general. She was the first face we saw when we landed – having never even met before – and has been a mainstay in our lives since. She showed us the ropes on how to live up here. Everyone we know now can be traced back to her directly. She was the guiding light to helping Suzanne get her foot in the door of her trained profession. She has house sat for us on a moment’s notice and even rescued our kitties from a possible fire. Her selfless and unwavering friendship has been an inspiration. It motivates me to be a better friend to my peeps. As if that weren’t enough, she’s also super villain smart and a champion level geek. Everything you could possibly want in a friend.

Sadly this was her last Super Bowl party with us. Soon she will follow the mass exodus of long timers that are leaving the city of Iqaluit. I’m torn by it. Part of me is mourning the loss of a very dear friend but on the flip side I’m ecstatic that she is finally free and gets to be with her beloved husband that she has so rarely been able to be with for the past 5 years. I know deep down it really isn’t “losing a friend”. She’s that special breed of friend that sticks with you for life. It’s just sobering to know that seat at the table will be empty. I still hold out hope that if there is a 4th Annual Mega Indoor Tailgate Super Bowl Party of Awesomeness & Excellence that she and her hubby will be there, forever lighting up the party with her smile.

Here’s to you Missy. You’re a remarkable person and an even better friend. I’m sure I can speak for the both of us when I say we’re very privileged to have you in our lives.

Missy hard at work

To infinity and beyond!

The IHS & The Aviva Community Fund

Yes this is shameless promotion but who cares when it’s a good cause involved. The Iqaluit Humane Society has a chance to win a nice chunk of money to not only help re-open its doors but get some seed funds to construct a new facility. All you have to do is vote. Just look at the poster(s) and follow the instructions.

Be a part of history.

Thanks and Happy Voting!

Alianait Festival 2011 – Day Three: Tulugak!

While Alianait was happening, there was also a local baseball tournament happening.  As with the hockey tournament during Toonik Tyme, the Iqaluit Humane Society was also raising funds by volunteering at the baseball tournament.  Ian and I decided to cover one of the shifts, which mean working the canteen.  We got to sell beer, burgers, dogs and fries to the teams playing and the spectators.  We had loads of fun, enjoyed the absolutely beautiful sunny day and collected lots of tips for the pups and kitties at the shelter.  Well, it was fun until the wind died down and the sun got so hot!  See, in the arctic, the sun tends to get hotter than it feels down south, because you’re used to the cooler weather.  Oh, that and the larger hole in the ozone layer likely helps as well.  😉

Once the shift was over, we decided to take in the evening showing of the main performance piece of Alianait, Tulugak.  Created by Sylvia Cloutier, Tulugak was meant to tell Inuit raven stories – and there were many incorporated into the wonderful experience.  As described in the Alianait brochure, the raven is depicted as so many things:  trickster, passionate lover, nuisance, thief, and skilled hunter.  Tulugak showed these many aspects through a collaborative effort of the many performers involved in various aspects of the festivals.  It was a fantastic and funny presentation, and we’re both so glad we went.  We were in awe due to the beautiful songs…and laughed out loud at the humour spread graciously throughout the show.  Here’s some of the pictures that we managed to capture…enjoy!

Mike Philip Fencker Thomsen performing as Tulugak…

Charles Keenan and Beatrice Deer performing…

The members of Artcirq as ravens watching the hatching of a third…

Vivi Sorensen as the white raven…cleaning up the garbage!

Charles Keenan on guitar, with Mathew Nuqingaq and Laakkuluk Williamson drum dancing…Beatrice Deer singing in the background…

Laakkuluk telling the story of how Tulugak came to Baffin Island from Greenland…with Vivi and Mike Philip performing…

Angu Motzfeldt on guitar…such a treat to see him perform in this…

More drum dancing with Mike Philip, Mathew and Laakkuluk…this was so beautiful…

The performers of Tulugak!

Creator of the show, Sylvia Cloutier…

The video below is part of the Tulugak performance…wish it was better sound quality, but alas, my PAS cam isn’t the best.  Cathy and Roger, this one’s for you…Artcirq performers juggling and Mike Philip Fencker Thomsen performing Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ in English AND Inuktitut.  Beautiful!

Alianait Festival 2011 – Day Two & Canada Day in Iqaluit

We were back volunteering at Alianait for Canada Day.  Bought some tickets for the Duck Race that’s going to be taking place in support of the firefighters – yes…a duck race!  First prize?  Tickets on First Air from Ottawa to Iqaluit – round trip.  Fingers are crossed for another winning ticket!

We were tired out by the end of the day, so we didn’t get a chance to get out to the concert that night, but we had lots of fun during the Canada Day festivities.  Here’s some pictures from our beautiful day!

Arriving at the festivities...you might not be able to see it, but there's a LOT of people there...

Line up for the fry truck...and we waited the WHOLE time...

Bouncy castles...and lots of people mingling

So many kids...everywhere!

The Alianait Big Top!

Mission: Destroy Canada Day cake. Mission: Accomplished.

Fry truck Canada Day/Alianait weekend prices. They were cheaper last weekend...honest!

Contrast...

Kids painting the murals...

Square dance in the Big Top!

Alianait Festival 2011 – Day One

With the July long weekend comes the hottest, coolest festival on top of the worldAlianait!  Alianait is Inuktitut for something that is wonderful – or being very very happy.  It has been an exciting few days and now that it’s winding down, we can start giving a day by day recap.

As with many other large events in Iqaluit, it lives and dies by the efforts of the volunteers.  Ian and I have been helping out again with this event and enjoying every minute of it.  I took some time off of work on Thursday to help out manning the ticket and merchandise tables.  It was grey, and most people were working, so not very busy.  But we met some of the other volunteers, including a woman (Hi June!) whose mother grew up a few houses over from where we lived in Kitchener…small world!

Ian modeling the cool schwag you get as a volunteer...

There are two main stages for the festival…the Big Top and the Main Festival stage.

This is the Big Top Stage.

This is the main Festival Stage (in Nakasuk School).

The Big Tent held showcases, a square dance and workshops, and the main Festival Stage was where it was at each evening of the Festival.  The first night was a nice introduction to some great Canadian (and international) music.  Lots of blurry pictures and low quality videos ahead…what do you want for a basic point and shoot camera?

First up was the April Verch Band.  The band is based out of Ottawa, but bassist/banjoist Cody Walters is from North Carolina and guitarist Clay Ross is from Brooklyn, NY.  April herself is phenomenal on the fiddle and performs Ottawa Valley Stepdancing while fiddling.  Pretty amazing.

Next up were the Gregor Boys from Labrador.  The “boys” included an eclectic range of ages of men playing “traditional” Inuit rock.  I unfortunately don’t know if I’m spelling their name correctly – they don’t seem to have a web presence and appear to have been a replacement for someone in the program.  Regardless, they rocked the house and got some folks up on their feet and dancing.

Coming from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory was a quartet of women playing old time string music with pretty amazing vocal harmonizing – Annie Lou.  They were a little too country for my liking, but you can’t deny that they were good at what they did.  The music was highly evocative of another time, and certainly another place.

The final performer of the evening was Angu Motzfeldt.  An indie musician from Greenland, the program described him as “Greenland’s male opposite to Bjork but with a touch of U2’s ‘Joshua Tree’ and the psychedelic rock of Blow Up Hollywood”.  Not necessarily how I’d describe his music – it was more like Chris Martin of Coldplay with an Inuk twist.  No matter…truly beautiful work.  I definitely picked up his newest CD Burning Blue Skies which also features his band.  But Angu on his own is soulful and dreamy.  Perfect for helping someone sleep in the 24 hour sunlight…

And really, what night would be complete without me stalking someone for an autograph or a picture.  😉

Is that a smile? Or a look of worry? Don't worry, Angu. I am still having trouble opening the CD to be signed. You can run away while I'm distracted!

Don’t forget to keep checking for the rest of the Alianait posts…they’re coming soon…

Iqaluit Humane Society AGM Tomorrow

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The IHS is holding an Annual General Meeting on Monday, June 27th 2011 at 7:30pm at the Arctic Nunavut College (main campus).  We’re going to be discussing the future of the shelter, going over the financials as well as reviewing where we currently are as a society. We welcome you to stop by and offer your thoughts, comments and suggestions. Whether you’re a long time supporter or new to the scene your opinions matter!

The shelter is a pure not-for-profit volunteer operation run by a host of amazing individuals and we’re always on the look out for new members. The general public isn’t aware of how difficult it is to manage the day-to-day operations at the shelter with everyone working full-time jobs. We dedicate our free time, lunch breaks and weekends to make sure Iqaluit’s less fortunate and often forgotten residents are taken care of. Four shifts per day, seven days a week  folks. That’s 28 shifts that need to be covered with a minimum of two people. That ends up being the work of 56 people being performed by less than 20 of us. Many times we’ve found ourselves alone on shifts having to manage a shelter full of animals. It’s hard work when the support is at a bare minimum. With the Katimavik volunteers gone for the summer we do not have the luxury of having a day staff available during the week. We’ve teetered on the brink of collapse a few times because there’s only so much a handful of people can do. I’ve personally worked nearly every day for the past couple of months and have covered every shift from as early as 6:30am to 9:30pm. I know others who have done the same and even more without hesitation or regret because we all share a common bond in that we love the little critters there.

People think a shift at the shelter is a walk in the park. It can be if enough people are on at the same time. A typical shift consists of:

  • Walking the dogs
  • Disinfecting & sterilizing cages
  • Cleaning the shelter (doing dishes, sweeping & mopping floors)
  • Doing laundry
  • Feeding giving the animals water
  • Keeping and maintaining daily animal logs

Unfortunately when you’re on your own it can rival any household chore. Disinfecting a single cage takes a minimum of 10 minutes in order to do properly and if you have a full house it’s a slow and tedious process that can take up to 2 hours or more to do. Here’s some food for thought: If we have 10 full cages and 5 people come in at the same time to walk those 5 of the dogs at the same time we can do 50 minutes worth of disinfecting work in just 10 minutes. Imagine the possibilities. Volunteering can be as simple as taking a single friendly pup out for a nice walk on a beautiful summer day. You have no idea how much a modest act such as that can help cut down the time needed for a shift. Simple gestures like that can do more good than you can believe so if you’re interested in helping out please come to the meeting or shoot us an email at volunteers@iqaluithumanesociety.com for more details.

We always have pups and kitties at the shelter looking for new homes so feel free to stop by and test drive your new pet any day or schedule a showing at adoptions@iqaluithumanesociety.com.

You can also follow us on Twitter now @iqhumanesociety! We’re bringing the IHS into the 21st century so come grow with us!

Toonik Tyme Wrap-up – The “Better Late Than Never” Edition

After a week and a half of being fairly sick, and then being forced to recover from the results of a disappointing election, I am finally back to sum up – as promised – our first experience with Toonik Tyme.  I have also been significantly shamed into getting my fingers back on the keyboard, so thanks for that Ian.  😉  If you read this blog just for the pictures, then you’re in luck.  Ian has advised me that we uploaded about 90 new shots from the festival in Iqaluit that heralds the coming of spring.

Stage at the Opening Ceremonies

The festival was heralded in through the use of the opening ceremonies.  Many of the larger events were being held at the Curling Rink, and this was no exception.  From what Ian and I could see, there was a great turnout.  Plenty of people were volunteering to help out with upcoming events and all volunteers got this lime green t-shirt.  Can’t miss a person in this thing!  We had planned on helping out at a few events, and so grabbed our shirts that night so we’d be ready.

The opening ceremonies began with the lighting of the traditional qulliq by a local elder.  She told us a lovely anecdote about how stinky seal oil can be when it’s old – apparently it was old that night, because she wasn’t impressed by the smell at all.  We finally got to experience Inuit throat singing!  It’s traditionally performed by Inuit girls or women, almost as a game.  The two women face each other and sing back and forth, attempting to make the other laugh.  I’m glad we got to see it, as it’s something to experience for yourself for sure.  We have a couple of videos of some of the singers.  I’ll try to get some of them uploaded at some point.  But let’s just say that the internet up here leaves something to be desired when it comes to uploading videos.

There were a number of throat singing acts, including a woman from Nunavut who partnered up with a woman from Finland (if I recall correctly) for a mix of Inuit throat singing with Joik – a traditional singing style of the Sámi people.  The Sámi are the arctic indigenous people of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia.  We were also treated to local singer Aaju Peter, as well as some exchange students in Iqaluit. Unfortunately my memory is hazy on names and places, and we must have thrown out the schedule for the night.  Boo!

Throat singers

Folk singing with Aaju Peter

Friday night was Northern Bands night at the Cadet Hall.  There is some amazing talent in this little city of ours.  We were very happy to be introduced to Josh Qaumariaq, Michael Doyle, Jordan Grenke, and so many other talented musicians.  I wish I could remember them all, but they were all amazing.  It makes me want to get into playing music again!
 

Josh Qaumariaq & his band - this guy's voice...INCREDIBLE blues singer!

Mike Doyle & friends...a VERY talented bunch!

Saturday was by far our busiest day.  We were in line for the craft show at 9 AM for its 10 AM start on the very good advice of a friend.  The show was full of all kinds of vendors.  Food, clothing, traditional art and carvings, fur, coffee…something for everyone!  I easily got waylaid by the first table we passed – it was filled with cheese!  There were so many tables there that we barely got to see everything.  The crowd quickly made its way into the Curling Rink and people were everywhere.  We picked up a few gifts for people and some more goodies for ourselves and were off.

Missy and Sileema manning the St. Jude’s booth – raising money to finish rebuilding the church…

Following the craft show, we headed back out for some of the outdoor events.  We didn’t get to see everything that was going on that day.  There were so many events…snowmobile races, igloo building, ice carving, barbecues, dogsled races.  So much to do, and not enough time to do it all!

Ian and the large arctic char that now resides in our freezer

Carving ice sculptures in the cold

Ian...seconds after biting into a frozen burger

After a quick nap, Ian and I headed back to the Curling Rink for the annual “big band” night. Every year, a band from down south is flown in to perform. The White Stripes have been here. Last year it was The Trews. This year, a band out of Hamilton, Ontario graced us with their presence…The Reason. We volunteered at the event. Ian got to handle security, and I manned the door, taking tickets. It was a great night, and we ended up being able to watch the band once all of the volunteer duties were complete. And of course, in my usual groupie ways, I snuck in a picture of myself with the singer, Adam. All in all, we had a great night! Live music is so much fun!

Ian with the boys in security

The Reason rocking Iqaluit

Suzanne playing groupie with Adam White of The Reason

After a very late night cleaning up from the show, we were back at it again in the morning. This time, we were helping to sell tickets at the Toonik Tyme Hockey Tournament. The proceeds were going to the Iqaluit Humane Society, and we ended up raising $2000 for our efforts. The hockey tournament featured teams from across Nunavut and Nunavik. We were there on the championship day, during the semi-final games. It was very busy, and we met a tonne of people, including some really helpful kids. So cute!

Two of our little helpers at the hockey tournament

Sunday was unfortunately the end of our Toonik Tyme adventures. We wanted to get back out for the closing ceremonies, but both of us ended up feeling pretty sick that night. It’s too bad, as I heard it was quite good, with more performers similar to the opening night.

So there you have it. Finally. We’re looking forward to Toonik Tyme next year. In fact, I’ve already started making inquiries about being a part of the board. It’s great to be a part of things in this city, and when it comes down to it, the best way to do that is to volunteer. Happy spring everyone!