The Markham Ice and Snow Festival undergoes a change this year with expanded activities and opportunities for the community to participate.

It features numerous components taking place until April.

“This year is quite different,” founder Diane Yu said. “Last time, it was a 10-day ice sculpture show. This year, I really want to welcome everyone to evolve the festival, create DIY ice sculptures at home, just like Harbin. This year we want everyone to create an ice lantern in their back yard, take pictures and submit them by March 15.”

The photos will become part of a contest, slated for an art exhibition April 1-5 at McKay Art Centre in Markham. The ice lanterns are easy and fun to make. Step-by-step instructions follow below.

Ice lanterns are part of Diane Yu’s roots in China. They are also where the famous Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival began.

“Thirty years ago the first ice lanterns were made by people at home because Harbin is a winter city, almost half the year is very cold,” said Yu, who moved to Markham 20 years ago and noticed there was a lack of fun outdoor activities for people who weren’t into winter sports.

“I realized in Canada snow sports were very popular but ice as art is the same as sports and I’m not good at sports so (it’s) a long winter,” she recalled. “I stayed at home and I can see a lot of people like me are very deprived in winter, can’t do a lot of things. I was thinking if I could do something like Harbin did…”

Yu continues to have ties to the Harbin festival. In 2018, she brought six high school students from GTA to China to participate in an ice sculpture composition and they won a gold prize. She returned at the beginning of January 2020 with a group of three post-secondary school students to participate in a competition and cultural exchange with three Chinese university students.

“Before I went to the states in 1997, I made an ice sculpture every year,” said Yu “I enjoyed it very much. I did them with my classmates and friends and we really enjoyed the process.”

She started out as an art student in China, attended university to major in environmental design and fine art. Then she started a teaching career at a different Harbin university, working out of the architecture department. When she moved to Canada, she founded CSID (Centre of Sustainable and Integrated Design), a non-profit organization.

To take a photo of your ice lantern, capture multiple angles, a maximum of 200 KB in size, and email to [email protected] by March 15. Your work will have the opportunity to be displayed at Markham’s McKay Art Centre April 1- 5.

To make a DIY Ice Lantern

1. Get two open-top containers of different sizes. Suspend the smaller one in the larger one with tape. Ensure that the bottom of the small container is at least 1 inch away from the bottom of the large container. Then pour water into the hollow space between the two containers. If you like, you could also insert colourful decorations or pigments. Note: We recommend using a cake baking mold.
2. Freeze outside for 24 hours on a cold day.
3. Turn the containers upside down and run with cold water to slightly melt the ice and remove from the containers.
4. Place a candle in the hollow in the ice formed after the small container is removed, and your ice lantern is complete.

Photo: Diane Yu, founder of the Markham Ice and Snow Festival, is taking the festival back to its roots which began with making ice lanterns in China. The do-it-yourself community project grew to become the now famous Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival.

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