2012 Festi-Vent sur Glace

It’s safe to say we were initially hesitant when we got an email about going to fly on a frozen river in Quebec… Sub-zero temperatures, ice spikes for the shoes… I’m happy to say we took them up on the offer and the event only SOUNDED intimidating! As it turns out, we had an absolutely amazing time.

Going from Portland (PDX) to Newark (EWR), then to Montreal (YUL), we arrived on Thursday evening and were warmly greeted by Jean-Roch Noel… A longtime resident of St Placide (home of Festi-Vent sur Glace) and a highly active member of the festival committee, Jean-Roch made sure we were fed and comfortable, then drove us the 45 minutes or so to where we would be staying and flying for the next three days.

First stop – one of the local government buildings, to meet and have a drink with the primary organizers and some of their loyal volunteers… Wow, talk about excited and passionate!

Amidst his own duties and preparations, the mayor also made an appearance, welcoming us to St Placide with a warmth matched by everyone present… Like the rest of his town, Denis was very friendly and down to earth!

Second stop – the frozen river itself, the site where we would be flying over the weekend – it was already dark, but driving onto the frozen river was stunning in itself and the ice was still solid in a downright balmy -5 Celsius.

Indeed, this would prove to be a very interesting event. 🙂

Third stop – the La Capucine bed and breakfast, where we’d be laying our heads… The innkeepers (Julie Fréchette and Alcide Paradis) took us in with open arms and quickly introduced us to their absolutely beautiful home, arranged both wake up and breakfast times, then showed us to our rooms.

Fourth stop – finally, happily, TO BED.

Friday – February 17, 2012

After a timely and motherly wake up by Julie, we were treated to a stunning breakfast – oh, did I forget to mention that she is an award winning chef as well? Local ham, fresh fruits, farm eggs, fresh croissants, waffles and more… Aye, we were pretty happily stuffed by the time we started out the door.

We walked across the street to the elementary school around 11am… Children had been working with Robert Trepanier to make and decorate kites, and we saw signs of his ongoing workshops all weekend through the eyes of many, many happy children flying the kites they made with Robert.

After a quick lunch at 11:45 (though we were still delightfully full), the team made its way into the gym just after noon for some indoor demonstrations… Joined by longtime friends Dominic Guimond and Jessica Lamarche, we flew Indoor Revs, iFlites and Zen Gliders for 130 or so very excited children – no ballet stuff, just good old fashioned fun flying and interacting with the kids.

Finishing up at the school, we went back to the B&B to get the rest of our gear and bundle up for some flying out on the river – roughly 2-3 blocks down the road (and downhill), the town’s main boat launch serves as a wintertime driveway out onto the ice but sadly, there was a bit of rain overnight and the ice was quite wet and slushy… However, we had access to a small ice fishing shack (one of many around) for keeping our gear dry – not so much needed for warmth since it was a surprisingly warm zero degrees Celsius.

Traveling as iQuad, the group this time around consisted of my better half (TK) , Steve de Rooy, Willow Robin and myself… Four of the 6 core team members, but we’d never flown in this particular 4-pack before and we were going to be rocking it with TWO couples alone for the first time in our team’s history.

After a quick tune up, we took on Dominic Guimond and Jessica Lamarche to make a 6-pack with THREE couples… Dom and Jess had flown with our team in St Honore (2010), learning our Raiders March routine in just a couple of hours so they were a welcome addition at various times throughout the event.

Elsewhere on the ice, there were lots of folks with skis and various sorts of traction kites or sails, volunteers were arranging things, setting up the sound system, positioning the fishing shacks and generally ramping up for a busy weekend on the river.

In the meantime, Willow had come prepared for the cold but her shoes weren’t waterproof so we packed up mid-afternoon and went back to the B&B so we could thaw out and prepare for the evening… An intimate dinner with fliers and organizers, cocktails and snacks at the school afterward (late evening) with city folks, volunteers, staff, fliers, essentially all the people who were a part of the event were welcomed… And of course, everywhere we went, our iFlites and Zen Gliders came along for a bit of rebel flying in hallways, dining rooms, pretty much anywhere we could squeeze in. <grin>

Back to the B&B to close out the day… Hanging out in front of the fireplace over a brew, swapping kite stories (“it was thaaaaaaaat big!”), renewing old bonds and forging new ones.

Saturday – February 18, 2012

With impeccable timing and manner, our hosts Julie and Alcide rousted us for another hearty breakfast before our first full day out on the ice… Coffee, OJ, homemade quiche, fresh fruit, decorated (as always) with beautiful baked designs from a very talented kitchen of two.

Stepping out onto the ice around 9am, it was quite a bit colder (-5 Celsius) so the ice was almost dry (i.e. totally frozen) and we headed straight for our assigned warm house (prettier way to say fishing shack) to set up… Now I’m here to tell you, we have flown in a TON of different conditions but this event was a completely new experience for us!

One, what do you do about a ground stake on ice? Well, as Rev fliers we used everything from actual crags in the ice to the doorknob of our little warm house…Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do, long as it’s safe. 🙂

Two, the ice was slippery but it wasn’t glassy – it was mostly rough – so if you let the lines sway back side to side at all while winding them out, you’d end up with a zig-zag of line snags in the ice… Not the kind of snags you can cut through when you launch either, you really gotta clear them out on your way to the handles otherwise it’s like dogstaking with one line (flail, flop, crunch)… However, it really wasn’t so bad once you got into the simple rhythm of checking everything at the appropriate times – our only line breaks (cuts) over the weekend were due to mid-air collision.

Three, it’s bloody cold… This aspect though, we came WELL equipped for with several practical layers (top and bottom), thick wool blend socks, baklavas (head, face and neck cover), 2-layer gloves, scarves and good boots… Between having decent gear, warm drinks (hot cocoa, coffee, chicken soup broth), the warm house and a solid lunch, it was TOTALLY enjoyable – I wasn’t really uncomfortable at any point, except for occasionally taking my gloves and hat on/off as my head and hands got too hot or cold (depending on whether I was flying or not).

Thanks to the slip on shoe spikes / cleats we’d brought with us, the slippery ice wasn’t a problem either – but some performed better than others and I strongly suggest you check out our Kahtoola Microspikes review if you’re expecting be on the ice at some point.

As the day went on, we saw a lot of beautiful single line kites aloft downwind from us, lots of kite skiers (safely outside of the main public area) and a really solid turnout of 25-30 sport kite fliers just upwind of us… Steve and I had an opportunity to fly with a lot of them when the team visited St Honoré in 2010 – it didn’t take long for us all to reconnect and rock out some Rev mega flies with an average of 9-12 pilots at any given time and WHOA, these guys (and gals) have been practicing their tails off! Even with the occasional translation needed from English to French or vice versa, everyone performed really well. 🙂

As a 4-pack, we did demos and flew a bunch but didn’t hit running speed… As many of you know, our squad flies with a lot of energy and we were still adjusting to both the environment and our new configuration but we did get some good runs in both on our own and with the addition of Dom and Jess for a 6-pack.

On their own, Dom and Jess also performed as individuals and paired with both dual and quad line kites… Both excellent pilots, but Dom in particular is one of my favorite dual line fliers to watch – just TOO smooth! 🙂

With a generally outstanding day of flying (average 5-12 mph) behind us, we packed it in for another intimate flier dinner and another event social with drinks and cold buffet (this time back at the local government building)… Here we got to spend time with more of the locals, volunteers and benefactors of the festival – a truly charming community.

Sunday – February 19, 2012

Did I mention how comfortable and delicious the B&B was? Another delightful morning thanks to our amazing hosts (really can’t say enough about these two)… Fresh crepes for breakfast with the usual assortment of fresh fruit and baked goods, along with a wide variety of jams and OF COURSE, 100% pure Canadian maple syrup… MmmmmMMmmmm!

Continuing the trend, the final day of the event was colder still (-10 Celsius) but by now we’d pretty well gotten the hang of it all, quickly getting set up and comfortable on the ice… Sylvain Gagnon came over with an ice screw (nifty device) to drill two holes in our field for some small wooden ground stakes – just in time too, as it was getting harder and harder to find suitable crags for staking our handles on.

Throughout the day, there were MANY other festivities and activities for old and young alike… Inner tube and sled rides, kite making, small shops and food vendors… We even managed to get up the hill to get a sample of something we’d been hearing quite a bit about… One vendor has a trough full of shaved ice and pours (pure?) maple syrup onto it in a line, then you can take a popsicle stick and roll it up onto the stick, right off the ice… Basically a maple lollipop that melts in your mouth, SO yummy!

We whipped out some demos in both 4 and 6-pack configurations, Dom and Jess did more of their solo and pairs stuff, the single line show continued all day and the other sport kite fliers kept their own awesome show going all day as well.

Now, we’ve talked some about the fliers but I dare not forget the “ringmaster” himself, Normand Girard – an active organizer and self-titled clown, responsible for many of the demonstration and night fly programs at events throughout Quebec… We’d worked with him at the St Honoré festival in 2010, this was a great reunion, he really brings an energy to the field all his own.

With his irrepressible energy and coordination with the primary organizers, he has a fine knack for keeping things energetic and entertaining for all involved, and he actually flies and builds all kinds of kites too. Cheers Norm!

The Rev mega flies continued on and off throughout the day, always drawing a large crowd and loud cheers… Hats off to all the enthusiastic pilots who jumped on the line – too many to list here – you know who you are, it’s just a shame we only get to see you once or twice a year.

Finally packing it in at the end of the day, it was general consensus among my teammates that we would have loved a full second festival day… Between the friends, PERFECT wind all weekend, great team flying and everything else, we could have definitely gone another round.

After getting back to the B&B to relax and thaw out, we headed to the local “Sugar Shack” (specialists in all things maple) for final festivities – a last round of socializing with our new (and old) friends, recognition amongst event staff and volunteers and some very delicious food that struck me a little like a combination of country southern and Quebec cuisines – baked beans, weiners, fried potatoes, fluffy eggs with local ham, cole slaw and THREE different maple desserts… At the end of it, iQuad got a nod as the invited fliers for 2012 and all four of us were presented with a hefty gift bag FILLED with REAL maple syrup, maple sugar and maple candies.

Sunday morning was cold again, somehow lending further character to our bittersweet departure – sitting around over coffee, we reminisced about the many joys of the weekend but were also dreading the inevitable farewells… A few of the core event staff, volunteers and supporters came to the B&B to join us for breakfast, giving us a send off that made it even harder to say goodbye.

Our deepest thanks to Denis, Jean-Roch, Stephanie, Bridgette and EVERYONE in St Placide who make this such a special event.

The moral of the story for me? Unique experiences bring us together… All of us…

Being in such a beautiful place, feeling the warmth of St Placide community…

A totally new adventure for us, and one we hope to repeat as soon as possible.

Until next time,