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After COVID-19 restricted events in recent years, Cambridge Bay is celebrating a musk ox-themed festival

The approximately 2,000 residents of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut will enjoy above-average temperatures, uninterrupted sunlight and a variety of outdoor activities this week during their Umingmak Frolics spring festival this month.

“The revelry is a big spring event bringing back the warm weather to celebrate the return of the sun and coming together as Inuit, which is especially important this year because of COVID,” said Mayor Angulalik Pedersen.

The annual celebrations kicked off last weekend without pandemic-related disruption for the first time since 2019.

In 2020, COVID-19 restrictions forced organizers to cancel the festival, which had been in existence since the late 1960s. The following year, the pandemic restricted live events and the festival was moved online.

Cambridge Bay Mayor Anglulalik Pedersen says this year’s edition of the Umingmak Frolics is a relief to the roughly 2,000 residents of his western Nunavut community who have spent much of the last two years under COVID restrictions. (Jane George/CBC)

Bingo, a poker tournament, a bazaar and a bus tour of the city for children kicked off this year’s fun.

The coming week will see snowmobile racing trials on the river and daily afternoon outdoor competitions for community teams.

These teams will compete for the “Golden Plunger” prize, which will be awarded to the winning teams at the end of the game.

Next weekend’s events include a float parade, talent show, fishing derby, seal hunt and snowmobile races. A talent show, fishing derby, seal hunt and snowmobile races are also on the programme.

Ashlee Otokiak, a self-taught musician, plans to appear in Umingmak Frolic’s talent show. (Jane George/CBC)

Ashlee Otokiak is a self-taught visually impaired musician. He polished up some guitar melodies and said he was looking forward to the talent show.

The festival’s mascot, Ollie the muskox or Umingmak, will also have many performances.

In years past, Ollie has been snapped as a joke before the pranks, only to be brought back at the last minute.

But city recreation workers Melissa Logan and Tracey Jesso said this year Ollie was hiding in a safe place.

The towering muskox is known for its large horns, bright smile and willingness to pose for selfies.

Musk ox numbers are declining

But while Ollie is always cheerful, the number of muskoxen around Victoria Island, where Cambridge Bay is located, has declined over the decades: from an estimated 30,000 in the late 1990s to about 10,000 on the Nunavut side of the island, according to a survey the government of Nunavut.

Climate change is one of the reasons suggested for this decline.

The changing climate has also meant that the timing of the festival changes from year to year.

Recently, daytime temperatures have been above zero and up to nine degrees above the normal range for this time of year.

There are concerns that melting sea ice could halt popular ice races next weekend.

Umingmak Frolics will take place from May 13th to 23rd.

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