Embrace winter with a cozy festival

Brooklyn’s winter festival attempts to take the chill out of winter by adding some fun

Photo: Ellen Lindstrom Olaf was on hand to help people with Consentino’s ice fishing game. If Olaf can embrace winter, surely anyone can.

Photo: Ellen Lindstrom
Olaf was on hand to help people with Consentino’s ice fishing game. If Olaf can embrace winter, surely anyone can.

Lagertha Aslaug
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Three years ago BRACA (Bay Ridge Arts & Cultural Alliance) created an event that got the locals to get out of February’s deep freeze to come out and play—and celebrate winter. They paired local arts and cultural organizations with businesses along Third Avenue in Bay Ridge. This year’s Embrace Winter Festival was held on Saturday, February 21. And a little respite was very needed, as New York has been suffering not only from typical freezing temperatures, but also from an arctic blast.

The Scandinavian East Cost Museum partnered with Consentino’s Fish Market to provide an ice fishing game. Owner Michael Consentino had the cute idea of giving Swedish fish as prizes, and SECM member Bob Carlsen dressed as Olaf the Snowman and assisted with the game. “Olaf” was asked about how the day went: “My experience participating at the Embrace Winter was wonderful. It was interesting to see how much fun the people were having doing the ice fishing game, especially the children. I hope that the weather is better next year, so we have better participation.”

Another Nordic connection at this year’s event was found at The Ridge Creative Center’s site at Circle’s Cafe. TRCC is a creative learning program. Their after school component recently had an exhibit, “The Arctic Circle,” which they re-installed for this fest. They explored the terrain, animals, and cultures of the region, articulating these studies in art. One was the northern lights, expressed in water colors. Other projects were derived from the examination of Sami culture. Students chose various spiritual symbols and reinterpreted those elements into their own design.

They also made a piece inspired by Sami cosmology. Sami reindeer herder Risten Lango relates this creation story: “A white reindeer created the world. The reindeer’s veins became rivers, its fur became forest, its stomach became the ocean, and its horns became mountains.”

The students were asked to take a piece of this story and create a work made from paper cut outs. They were limited to five colors. Deep red and blue, as these are used in traditional Sami clothing, brown and white for the deer, and black to add contrast. The results were exquisite. One was black and white with a bone in the contrasting two colors connecting the two sides, in reference to the Sami belief that a small reindeer bone connected the darkness to the light. The artist was Camilo, third grade. Gauri, a first grader, worked in red pieces on a blue background to make a disjointed reindeer with elaborate antlers. Magdalena, also in first grade, used two leaping reindeer, mirroring each other, one in white and one in brown surrounding the earth.

The TRCC provided interactive activities for the audience: an art project, interpreting the Aurora Borealis in watercolor; and a Penguin Punch game. Of course this was also a learning opportunity, as participants were told that penguins were only found at the south pole.

Another display at Yellow Hook Grille was billed as follows, by the Bay Ridge Historical Society: “See how the Bay Ridge area looked like over 100 years ago. See vintage photographs and postcards of our neighborhood, and enjoy talking about the neighborhood’s history and past. Come and see what your neighborhood looked like before alternate side parking rules!”

There was a performance by the Regina Opera at Vesuvio’s Restaurant. The one-hour concert featured opera and Broadway selections performed by Regina Opera soloists Cheryl Warfield, soprano; Tate Jorgensen, tenor; and Dan Boruchowitz, baritone; accompanied by Richard Paratley, flutist and Maxine Feldman, pianist. Opera selections included arias and duets by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, and Donizetti; Broadway selections from “Carousel,” “Les Miserables,” “Showboat,” “Company,” and “Kismet” also delighted. Shortly before the performance began, feathery snow started swirling outside, creating a lovely background for the musicians. My plebeian knowledge of opera had me thinking about the scene in Moonstruck as Cher and Cage watch the last scene of La Boheme, Mimi singing and dying in the snow. It was a stunning backdrop and a stellar performance,
Participants were given passports and if they visited each site and did the activities they could choose prizes from select food merchants and restaurants. A $5.00 donation was suggested to support BRACA’s work.

BRACA is an umbrella organization, launched in 2011, to support and promote the arts and cultural richness of Bay Ridge and to develop strategies that will make Bay Ridge a cultural destination. BRACA President Victoria Hofmo was asked how the Embrace Winter Festival originated: “By February, we are all suffering from cabin fever, so why not have fun, in a laid-back event that partners and promotes local businesses and local arts and cultural organizations?”

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 27, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.