In Inuvik, the annual festival welcoming the return of the sun brings a smorgasbord of events, from yoga to dancing, fireworks, snow carving and more.
Tuktoyaktuk’s festival, named Sikiniq Nuimavia Katijvikput – “As the sun rises, we will gather together” – has all of those things but a central theme of celebrating Arctic sports.
“It’s always been like that with our elders and with our ancestors,” said Charles Komeak after the final night of sports Sunday, Jan. 14.
“What this sunrise festival is all about, all the trappers, hunters, they get together in a certain area to celebrate the sun coming back, and our games were there all the time.”
During the weekend, competitors faced off in airplane, arm pull, kneel jump, two-foot high kick, Alaskan high kick, one-foot high kick, bench reach and more.
An award ceremony rewarded winners with cash prizes.
“They’re awesome athletes,” said Komeak, who has been competing in Arctic sports since he was 16.
Now 64, Komeak coaches some of the youth.
“I’ve taught them for the last couple of years or so,” he said. “The way I see them, all their technique is more improved, their height and their power is more improved. It makes me feel good to see that. They will be the future champs.”
Komeak’s personal record during Arctic Winter Games competition in the two-foot high kick was seven feet, eight inches.
“It’s been a lot of fun to watch all these young athletes,” he said as people left the final night of games at Kitti Hall and made their way to the snow park for the festival-ending fireworks.
“They will eventually keep on going and they will get better. It’s good to see that.”