Winter Festivals in Oak Park and Quebec City

Making the best of the usually bleak winter months

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By David Hammond

Whenever I travel, I seem to inevitably draw comparisons between our village and the places I visit.

Recently, I was sorry to be out of town during our Winterfest, though I was very happy to be in Quebec for their Winter Carnival.

Out-of-towners say that when they’re driving to Oak Park from Chicago along North, Madison, or Lake streets, they can immediately tell when they’re in Oak Park because, suddenly, it feels different. The same could be said for Quebec City: coming in from the Jean Lesage International Airport, the surroundings made me feel like I could have been in Park Ridge or Schiller Park; once you’re in the old section of town, though, you know it. In the old section of Quebec City, surrounded by 17th century fortifications, is a neighborhood of three or four story buildings, many with the raked mansard and sometimes metallic roofs so common in France. The streets are winding and picturesque; it seems like a small French village (which it in many ways still is). Usually only French is heard on the streets (no worries, though, English is everyone’s second language, and although secessionist sentiments still runs strong, everyone I spoke with seemed happy to converse with me in my native language).

One key feature of all European-type winter festivals is mulled wine, called gluhwein in many European markets. The French-Canadians put their own spin on this holiday wine beverage with what they call “caribou,” which tastes of cinnamon and other wintery spices. In our nominally “dry” village, alcohol is predictably absent from our winter festival. As Diane Stanke, Ridgeland Commons Manager of Communications, told me, “This was an extra special event; we’ve never done a Winterfest before. We had 800 people, which was fantastic.”

Sugar Fixe provided 400 cupcakes for this event in Oak Park; in Quebec City, the pastry of choice was Beavertails, a flat, sweet platform upon which is spread frostings and other toppings.

Both Oak Park’s Winterfest and Quebec City’s Winter Carnival have one major theme in common: making the best of the usually bleak winter months.

One big difference between Winterfest in Oak Park and Winter Carnival in Quebec City is that the latter goes on for over two weeks. The longer running time is understandable: Quebecers have more winter to deal with than we do.

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