Fire alarms in a snow castle? The odd pairing is just one of the demands organizers of the Snowking Winter Festival will have to meet following a list of orders put forth by NWT Fire Marshal Chucker Dewar.

Creators of the annual castle say they’re now scrambling to comply before construction begins.

“They have to do their job … They have to go by the rules,” said festival founder Anthony Foliot. “So we’re obliged to spend money that we don’t necessarily have.”

Anthony “Snowking” Foliot is attempting to raise funds to cover the costs of new safety measures – including fire alarms – imposed by NWT fire marshal Chucker Dewar ahead of this year’s snow castle construction. While Foliot called the steps necessary to ensure visitor safety, he said pricey regulations of past years have taken a toll on the festival’s bottom line. With the launch of a raffle, Foliot hopes to keep prices down for guests while meeting safety standards.
NNSL file photo

Foliot, who has helmed the festival since its inception in 1996, told Yellowknifer he takes the safety of visitors seriously and understands the castle isn’t exempt from regulation processes, adding the fire marshal’s conditions are a reality, even for a castle made of snow.

“It’s unfortunate because we melt every spring and we have a start from scratch again,” he said.

Along with the ordered installation of hard-wired, siren-sounding fire alarms and building code-rated portable restrooms at the castle’s Yellowknife Bay site, the snow castle must also be approved by an accredited architect. While the last demand isn’t new – organizers provided the Office of the Fire Marshal with a stamped castle design for the first time last year, racking up a cost of nearly $6,000 – the start-from-scratch business model means the blueprint will have to be OK’d, and paid for, again.

“Using last year’s design would have saved us a pile of money but they want a new drawing stamped every year because it’s a new construction. It’s unfortunate, but I understand,” said Foliot.

The guidelines outlined by the fire marshal follow other safety measures imposed last year. Last year, organizers had to comply with an order to implement exit signs and smoke detectors to the tune of $7,000, leading the festival to run a deficit, according to Foliot.

To continue offering families and tourists a one-of-a-kind experience while staying out of the red without hiking the current daily entry fee of $5, Foliot and organizers have launched a crowd-funding campaign to offset the costs associated with the fire marshal’s directives.

“We want to make sure we’re not pricing ourselves out of the budgets of, say, single moms who have three kids and want to bring them to play in the snow,” said Foliot.

The 30/70 raffle, dubbed “Marshal’s Draw,” has been kicked off to cover the new costs. According to Foliot, many tickets, priced at $25 a piece, have been sold so far, with a total of 400 printed. Thirty per cent of the proceeds will go into into three separate grand prizes. If all tickets are sold, three lucky ticket holders stand to win $1,000 each.

The draw will be held at the festival grounds on Jan. 2.

Fire Marshal Chucker Dewar said he was too busy to talk when reached for comment.

The 23rd annual Snowking Winter Festival is set to open its icy doors on March 3.

Brendan Burke

As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility...

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  1. what kind of city do we live in? fire alarm in the snow castle…..Chuck needs a reality check and so does the city…engineered drawings. How silly.