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A rite of spring
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, April 8, 2010
The break-up of the Mackenzie River is a yearly rite of spring in the village and so is the speculation about exactly when the event will occur. The tipi, which is attached to a clock on the riverbank, measures the official break-up time in front of the village.
The practice of placing a tipi on the ice goes back at least into the 1970s, said Perry Rowe, who helped build this year's structure.
Rowe's been involved with the tradition for more than 20 years, ever since Geisla Schmidz, the owner of the liquor store at the time, asked him to erect a tipi for minor hockey and figure skating. A break-up pool is normally co-ordinated by one or more organizations in the village as a way to raise money.
This year's tipi stands approximately 25 feet high and took about an hour to assemble. Originally volunteers would construct the structure on the ice but building it on the land and using a helicopter to move it simplifies the process, Rowe said.
The earlier the tipi goes up the better, he said.
"We've been out there when the ice was cracking underneath us," said Mark Gerlock.
Gerlock was been involved in the tradition for approximately 15 years. Other volunteers this year included Todd Roche, Roger Jamieson and Kenny MacDonald.
"We just want to help the community out," Gerlock said.
Gerlock volunteered for the job of scaling the riverbank and walking across the ice to attach the timer rope to the tipi after it was positioned. Deep snow made the task difficult.
The timer rope, however, is crucial. When the ice breaks and the tipi moves the rope snaps, stopping the clock. The tipi itself gets a one way trip with the flowing ice towards Wrigley.
Looking at this year's ice conditions Gerlock predicted break-up would occur on May 5 while Rowe chose May 3. Todd Roche went for an earlier date of April 29 with no flooding.
"You never get tired of watching it happen," said Roche about break-up.