A blind-folded (elder) Bill Chelsea

A blind-folded (elder) Bill Chelsea

Hard going for winter pony express racers

The 2013 Esk’etemc Winter Fest took place on an appropriately snowy Monday, Feb. 18.

The 2013  Esk’etemc Winter Fest took place on an appropriately snowy Monday, Feb. 18.

In fact, it snowed all day which began with a community brunch from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. followed by the Winter Fest parade at 1 p.m.

Annually a theme is chosen prior to the event and all of the day’s games and costumes reflect that theme.

This year it was a celebration of the Cowboy-Mountain Race.

Fittingly, the parade was led by a horseback duo of former Esketemc First Nation mountain racers, Sandy Johnson and Bill Chelsea, along with a young rider, Travis Duncan.

The trio of horsemen were followed by a horse-drawn sleigh, the team owned by Jimmy Paul and driven by Frankie Robbins which was loaded with students and other community members and trailed by numerous other floats, the new community fire truck and a RCMP pickup, assorted ATVs, other personal vehicles and a large contingent of community members and school children on foot.

By 1:30 p.m. all had congregated in the front-parking lot at Sxoxomic School where the official judging in the following categories was held: Parade-Horse Float, Individual-Horse and Duct Tape Cowboy-hat Contest (entire hat-any accompanying articles (vest, belt/buckle, boots, spurs or chaps) had to be constructed using (only) duct-tape).

Some awesome creativity (and hours of labour) was displayed in a variety of entries. Tough job for guest-judges.

The winners are listed below:

Parade Horse: best in show, education department; most original, administration; hard luck, Headstart-Daycare.

Individual Horse – stick horse: best in show,  Anthony Robbins (store); most original,  Lillie Johnson; hard luck, Lynn Chelsea.

Duct-Tape Cowboy Hat: first, Sara Sampson; second, Frederick Johnson; third, Larry Johnson; hard luck, Gord Chipman.

The festivities then moved to the large field behind the school playground where teams of four (various band-departments) competed in the Mountain-Pony Express race.

This is a timed event wherein the first team member raced down the mountainside to the spot where rider two was stationed. Hats and horses then had to be exchanged before rider two galloped off to checkpoint three.

Once again there was an exchange of hats-horses before rider three could race to where the final fouth express-rider waited to receive the mail for the final leg of the journey.

It was an exhausting, lengthy ride through knee-deep snow, with many of the racers only shod in summer-shoes (ha, ha) and it was extremely hard-going for those who were saddled with the bulkier horses.

There were knickers of sympathy from the spectators along with bouts of hearty laughter.

The Mountain-Pony Express race champions: Health Department (first, 43. seconds.) in spite of the fact that they were riding what seemed to be a purple donkey (named Eeyore); while those who followed in second, Esketemc Fire Dept. (44.15 sec.); and third, Head-Start-Daycare (50. sec.), were mounted on fine quality quarter-horses.

The last (horse) race through the knee-deep snow was run by a trio of female students who finished in this order: first, Courtney Johnson; second, Electra Johnson; and third, Myla Johnson.

Then everyone headed back to the school-gym for hot chocolate, coffee and juice; cup-cake decorating for the wee ones.

Just a little warm-up and rest for the elders before they took to the outdoors (again) for more events.

These events included Indian Bingo played by elders who formed a circle in the knee deep snow and dice were shaken in empty cardboard pop-flats passed from person-to-person.

For the youth skills challenge in the skating rink participants shot three baskets, three pucks, then filled a large cup of water to over-flowing by carrying water (warm) from a large bucket with a paper-cone cup.

Then came a pinata smash for elders only (watch out, some of them swing a wicked broom)!

The day finished up indoors for a final game; five-person, five-station team game dubbed the amazing race which was won by the young-guns representing the Esketemc Fire department; Wilf Robbins Jr., Francis Bob, Justin Paul, Roy Mousseau and Anthony Robbins who edged out a team of their elders (in some cases, their own fathers); Wilf (Wip) Robbins Sr., Frankie Robbins, Gabriel (Kip) Robbins, Robert (Yop) Robbins Sr. and Wes Michel.

It was a great afternoon of fun organized and hosted by various Esketemc band -departments and personnel along with the Sxoxomic School (principal and staff).

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