Winterlude is one of the opportunities Canadians have to celebrate our winter traditions and our collective Canadian identity, National Capital Commission CEO Marie Lemay said yesterday.

The NCC has unveiled the lineup of events for the 32nd edition of Winterlude and the 40th season of skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway.

“Winterlude … will help us build a sense of belonging in our community, and serves as an important draw for tourists from around the world,” said Gatineau deputy mayor Joseph De Sylva.

To be held over three weekends, from Feb. 5 to 21, Winterlude will officially be launched with a musical fireworks display and outdoor dancing at the Canadian Museum of Civilization at 7 p.m. Feb. 5.

Winterlude activities will take place at three official sites — on the Skateway, the Rogers Crystal Garden in Confederation Park and the Sun Life Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau.

“For the 32nd time, I will be putting on my skates and skating on the Rideau Canal,” said Coun. Georges Bédard. “You have to do it when you’ve been in Ottawa for so long. When Winterlude arrives, you have an obligation — you get out there and you skate your little heart out.”

Activities on the Skateway include skating lessons, Portraits on the Ice: Celebrating Canada’s winter sports heritage, Aboriginal singing and dancing, the Winterlude triathlon, a bed race and the Great Canadian Beaver Cup Pond Hockey Championship.

With snow slides, a maze and other activities, the biggest snow playground on the continent will be created at Jacques-Cartier Park, while Confederation Park will host the international ice-carving competition.

The NCC has also announced new initiatives for this year.

While the NCC has already announced solidarity with Haiti, “given the tragic events in that country, the NCC would like to do even more,” said Lemay. “We will devote the first weekend of Winterlude to Haiti and on February 5, 6 and 7, the NCC will work with the Red Cross and the Haitian community of the region to collect donations … along the world’s largest skating rink.” Details will be announced shortly.

This year, the NCC will also begin measuring Winterlude’s carbon footprint, in order to make the event and its operations carbon neutral by 2012.

Also, in order to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the skateway, the NCC is looking for submissions for an online photo album.

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