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Calgary's Chinook Blast festival to return with parades, sports tournaments, performances

Free skate equipment rentals will be available on some Chinook Blast festival days at the Olympic Plaza rink.  (Colleen De Neve for CBC - image credit)
Free skate equipment rentals will be available on some Chinook Blast festival days at the Olympic Plaza rink. (Colleen De Neve for CBC - image credit)

This year's Chinook Blast winter festival will include a Lunar New Year lantern parade and the world long-track speed skating championships.

More than 200 winter experiences are scheduled across the festival's three weeks, from Feb. 2 to 19, said organizers at a launch event on Thursday.

Downtown Calgary's Olympic Plaza will host much of the celebration's fourth year, with art installations, live music and other experiences set to take place there, including a chance to skate with Heritage Park's townsfolk wearing historical costumes on Feb. 19.

"We're seeing probably about nine or 10 per cent more partners this year," said festival committee member Jeff Hessel.

"It's really heartwarming to see ... that momentum growing for Chinook Blast, that we're having more and more groups participating."

In 2023, the festival generated $13.5 million in economic impact for the city, said Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek at the launch event, and more than 373,000 people attended.

"For a very long time, people looked at winter in Calgary as something that was, you know, you'd sit at home and wait for a chinook and then you go out and do things," said Gondek.

"I think people realized you don't have to stay indoors the entire winter season. … Winter shouldn't limit you."

Old City Hall was illuminated as Calgarians enjoyed the displays during the Chinook Blast winter event throughout downtown Calgary on Feb. 19.
Old City Hall was illuminated as Calgarians enjoyed the displays during the Chinook Blast winter event throughout downtown Calgary on Feb. 19.

Calgarians have enjoyed downtown light displays during past Chinook Blast celebrations. (Colleen De Neve for CBC News)

The Four Winds Indigenous Showcase & Market, which will see at least 75 Indigenous vendors and musicians set up in the City Hall Atrium, is back from last year's programming and scheduled for Feb. 2.

The same day, YYCHacks, described online as a hackathon to promote software development as a tool to make the city more accessible, is happening at Bow Valley College.

A week later, some of the world's top freestyle snowboarders will take to the Canada Olympic Park for the FIS Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup on Feb. 9 and 10.

To mark the Lunar New Year, a dragon dance and lantern parade are scheduled for Feb. 9.

Then Calgary's Olympic Oval will host the 2024 ISU World Speed Skating Championship from Feb. 15 to 18.

"I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure that my calendar is 'snow' full for the next few weeks," said Gondek.

Full details of events and locations can be found at chinookblast.ca.