A midday whiteout wasn’t enough to keep visitors away from a winter celebration, which added to a list of recent initiatives changing the face of a dodgy neighbourhood.

The Deep Freeze Byzantine Winter Festival brought hundreds of visitors to Alberta Avenue over the weekend, a spot traditionally absent from weekend warriors’ destination lists.

The festival is one of the many efforts by area residents taken in the past few years to bring arts to the Ave, and put a pretty face on an ugly past.

“I’m not afraid to bring my children here anymore,” said festival visitor Mary Anne Boucher, while warming her hands by a bonfire.

Having bought her home in the area 18 months ago, the mother of two said she would have never considered the community in the past, were conditions not noticeably improving.

“It’s things like this that bring people out and make them embrace the community,” she said. “If we hide inside, the druggies and prostitutes will keep it — it belongs to everyone.”
Carrot Community Arts Centre manager Irene Yauck credits some of the area’s new spirit to the advent of a central meeting place.

Situated on the corner of 93 Street and 118 Avenue, the coffee house provides a venue for over 300 area artists to share their work and ideas.

“We’ve been packed the entire weekend,” she said with a smile. “This event is bringing people out on to the avenue, it’s great.”
A flowering festival is planned for the area in the spring.

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