A little bit of madness will hit the streets of the village of Qualicum Beach on Saturday, May 3 when the 21st annual Fire and Ice Street Festival gets under way. Upwards of 5,000 people flock to the village centre’s closed-off streets to take in a wide variety of attractions that combine to make for a great family day.
The ‘fire’ aspect of the event is the Chili Cook-off, a heated (if you’ll excuse the expression) competition between local businesses, politicians, restaurants and resorts. The competitors set up street-side booths and dole out offerings of their specialty chili to anyone and everyone who is keen to try it. A mere $4 gets you an opportunity to eat your way from one end of town to the other. I should note here that my husband and I have yet to manage to down samples from every entrant, but there are those, apparently, who do pull it off. The organizing committee took a year off in 2013 and has come back this year with some new innovations that will encourage the participation of restaurants who do not normally sell chili, but will be able to offer other hot foods for sampling.
The fun thing about the competition is the variety of flavours on offer, the weird ingredients that sometimes go into the chili, and the ‘extras’ such as corn muffins, tortilla chips, and all manner of other stuff, that come with the main attraction. The Peoples’ Choice Award is the most coveted of the day and is decided by those who take the trouble to place ballots in boxes at the booths. Participants can also cast ballots for Best Professional Chili, Best Amateur Chili, and Best Decorated Booth (and believe me, there are some dillies in this category!)
The ‘ice’ aspect of the festival is a popular ice-carving competition that has the contestants set up at various locations intermingled with the food booths. The 15 master ice sculptors turn out some genuinely amazing works of art, and their expertise with everything from chain saws to picks and drills is something to behold.
Keeping with the theme of ‘ice’ there will also be new attractions featuring icy food items, including ice cream making.
The day also features all sorts of kid-friendly activities such as face-painting, pony rides, story time and the ever popular balloon man. There is music galore – several main stage feature acts are complemented by melodious offerings from buskers who wander through the crowds. This year’s headliner is Juno-award winning folk singer Valdy – a perennial favourite who has endured on the music scene for more than four decades.
Another new addition to the day’s festivities is the theme, which this year is Pirates of Qualicum Beach. Pirate costumes are welcomed and encouraged on both participants and attendees, which should make for some good fun and great photos.
Over-all, this is just one of the most relaxed, fun events imaginable. The festival atmosphere permeates every aspect of the village and provides a pleasurable beginning to what everyone hopes will be the onset of summer. Be prepared for a great day of feasting and fun!
The big day gets under way at 11 a.m. and runs until 3 p.m.
Further information can be obtained at: www.fireandicestreetfestival.com
GPS co-ordinates are (roughly):
Lat. 49.34719366303581 Long. -124.4416344165802
N 49 20.832 W 124 26.498