Thursday , 21 October 2021
Winter Festival of Speed. Image: Lac La Biche County.

Festival of Speed using runway to keep cars, sleds, planes on the lake in 2021

If the group behind this year’s Festival of Speed have their way, there will be the 38th edition of one of Lac La Biche’s signature events this February.

The winter festival that saw 130 planes land on Lac La Biche Lake in 2020 for a fly-in show and shine, amidst all the breakneck action of ice car racing and snowmobile drag races, is still currently scheduled for February 27-28.

“It’s a pretty amazing event,” said organizer and ice racer Ken Staples, who has helped run the event every year since 1983.

“We have a number of winter sport activities going on and it varies from year to year. We try to get all the associations in here…the anchor event has been the Western Canadian Championship for Ice Racing with cars on ice,” he said.

Major events have been on pause for almost a calendar year, but Staples sees himself as an optimist. With more than a square kilometre of ice carved out on the lake, he thinks there are safe ways to limit contact between people so the festival can go ahead.

He believes it’s important for the community to have this.

Outdoor gatherings restrictions, however, were just expanded to a maximum of ten people.

“We took the approach better to plan it and if you can’t do it, to pull the pin on it. Then suddenly, two weeks before the date and the restrictions are not as severe, and we could have done it and you waited too long, and you can’t make it happen,” said Staples.

“The Northern Alberta Sportscar club who organized the car races have already–in conjunction with Alberta Health Services–got an exemption and a set of very specific guidelines that they operate under.

“We’re using that as the basis for the other events, and we’ll be dealing directly with the Alberta Health Services people in Lac La Biche to review them, amend them as required, but it will be absolutely definitely in consultation with AHS.”

Put on officially by the Lac La Biche and District Chamber of Commerce and Lakeland Classic Wheels Club, Staples and chamber president Dave Phillips asked Lac La Biche County at last Tuesday’s council for a $30,000 grant, which was approved.

This year’s event will be different with no indoor activities, kyboshing the evening socials, awards for racers, and trade shows done in year’s past.

However, the proceeds from the Winter Festival of Speed are going right back into the community. The not-for-profit event uses volunteers from local sport and activity groups to make the weekend a pulse-pounding time, which totals $225,000 as the event reaches its fourth decade.

The Straightline Snowmobile Racing Association will be coming and it is hoped that the Edmonton Rally Club can do a slalom on ice as well for spectators watching from their vehicles.

“The yellow light goes on and it blinks down to the bottom on the internet and when the green comes on and they hit’er…it’s noisy and a lot of fun,” said chamber president Dave Phillips.

Event organizers believe they’ll know a couple of weeks from the scheduled dates whether the Festival of Speed will get out of the starting blocks.

But the glimmer remains for action-packed weekend.

“Until somebody says, ‘hey, you can’t do it.’ We’re going to go ahead on the basis that we can,” said Staples.

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.