Every year at this time, K’amba Carnival is celebrated by K’atlodeeche First Nation.

It’s sort of like clockwork — early March arrives and so does K’amba Carnival. And it’s been that way for the previous 38 years.

However, this year’s 39th annual edition of the winter festival has faced a daunting challenge in the Covid-19 pandemic, but even that has not been able to stop the carnival.

There have been many changes to the carnival in light of the new reality facing the world, but it is carrying on. That cannot just be accepted as inevitable, but is the result of the hard work of organizers and the support of K’atlodeeche First Nation.

Last year’s K’amba Carnival was held just before Covid-19 restrictions began in mid-March with the closing of schools and public buildings.

Back then, perhaps many people hoped that things would be somewhat back to normal by carnival time this year. Unfortunately, that has not happened.

So organizers of K’amba Carnival were forced to adjust to the times or the impressive run of the event — closing in on four decades — would be interrupted.

And the organizers did just that. Not only did they manage to make the necessary changes but that work was accomplished in a few weeks of planning and organizing.

Approval of the organizers’ plans for a safe carnival was only received in the second week of February from the GNWT and then the band council of K’atlodeeche First Nation gave its permission for the event to proceed.

The fact that a carnival has been organized in that amount of time — just a few weeks — is nothing short of remarkable.

Some might think that K’amba Carnival would not be too hard to get up and running after so many years since the organizers are in place and they have experience with all the events.

That might be somewhat true in ordinary times, but this year’s carnival required a major rethinking because of Covid-19. Some long-time favourite events like hand games are gone for this year, while new events have appeared, including a snow sculpture contest and a parade on the Hay River Reserve.

And all events have been impacted by safety concerns. While the adult and youth talent shows remain, they have been moved online to avoid any large gatherings. The same with the crowning of the carnival queen, prince and princess.

Last year at this time The Hub reflected on K’amba Carnival reaching its 38th year.

In an editorial back then, the carnival was called a survivor in the world of annual events in the NWT, considering the number of other carnivals and festivals that have come and gone over the years.

This year, K’amba Carnival has more than proven its resilience to adjust to the times and carry on in the face of adversity.

Many other events in the NWT have quite understandably put things on hold for this year, and plan to be back in 2022 when it is hoped that some normalcy may have returned.

K’amba Carnival and its organizers have decided to carry on in the face of Covid-19.

It is that spirit and determination that will undoubtedly keep K’amba Carnival going strong many years into the future.

If Covid-19 can’t stop it, what will?

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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