The 116th Rossland Winter Carnival received a warm reception from both Mother Nature, and a record number of local and visiting spectators.
The annual event began during the wee hours of Friday morning when a large crowd gathered to have its smile broadcasted to the rest of Canada.
Jeff Hutcheson, co-host of Canada AM, shot live footage from the corner of Queen and Columbia in downtown Rossland from 3 a.m. until 6 a.m.
“We budgeted for 400 people to be there during the entire three hour time span,” said Deanne Steven, executive director for Tourism Rossland.
“Over 600 people showed up in the first hour and a half.”
The entire CTV crew was surprised that such a small town could embrace such a crazy idea and turn out a big crowd during the early hours, said Steven.
On Friday night, old traditions continued with a parade down Columbia Ave., followed by hot cocoa and a bonfire in Harry Lefevre square.
“I’ve never seen so many people come out,” said Steven. “More locals and more tourists.”
Post-parade, the Spirit of Red Society warmed the crowd with its official unveiling of the new Olaus Jeldness statue on the corner of Washington and Columbia. Jeldness was a Norwegian miner who pioneered the carnival in 1897.
The numbers were also high for the annual Sonny Samuelson bobsled race which drew a record 28 entries.
Meanwhile, hundreds of spectators lined the Spokane Street track to cheer teams of those brave enough to ride a homemade sled from the top of Rossland to the bottom.
The rise in mercury played a negative role in the speed down the track, explained Kelly Acheson, coordinator of the race.
“Admittedly, it wasn’t the fastest year. It got too warm on Friday, and we worried that the track would be too slow.
“The city was out there at 5 a.m. spraying and icing the course so it wouldn’t melt away.”
The Iron Maiden sled from Rossland topped the field with a speed of 72 km per hour, and a combined time of 79.69 seconds over two runs.
Second place bragging rights went to the Alboholics from Rossland with a time of 80.37 seconds. Silver Streak, an American entry from Colville, placed third at 84.93 seconds.
The warm weather not only played havoc on the race track but spectators as well.
“Some snow on the arena slid off the roof onto some people during the race,” said Acheson.
Although the unexpected snow slide did not alter the course of the race or result in injury, she continued to look into the situation on Monday.
“Every year the carnival committee looks at the safety of the track and builds snow burms to keep pedestrians as safe as possible,” said Darrin Albo, manager of operations for the City of Rossland.
“In the future, that section will need to be closed off to all pedestrians even if there is little or any accumulation of snow on the roof.”
The Rail Jam on Queen Street hosted over 70 participants and went off without a hitch, said Dale Loukras from Rossvegas.
“Everyone had a blast,” he said.
The warm temperature didn’t stop over 600 people from lining up to start the day with a hot breakfast of pancakes and sausages, served up by Rossland Fire Fighters on Saturday morning.
“I’ve lost count,” said firefighter Andre Khazoom. “But I estimate that we have served 100 people more than last year.”
At the Rossland Legion, the ladies auxiliary ladled up five large pots of Russian and Ukrainian varieties of borscht to over 100 people.
“They just keep coming,” said Bev Bell, auxiliary member, and Russian-borscht cook du jour.
The weekend wound down with a presentation of “Who was Olaus Jeldness” at the Prestige on Sunday afternoon.
A good turnout of history buffs attended to hear stories about the Rossland pioneer,given by Norwegian journalist, Svein Saeter and North American historian Ron Shearer.