It was a wonderful ‘Time to Shine’!

Posted by: Krista Balsom

It was Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo’s Time to Shine, and Team Balsom was thrilled to be part of it as our region hosted the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games.

At Balsom, we pride ourselves on making magic happen. When the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games approached our team to be a sponsor of the Games, and also produce the opening and closing ceremonies, we jumped at the chance to be part of the action and support however we could. 

Opening Ceremonies presented by Bouchier 

After winning the request for proposal bid process, Balsom was excited to get to work with sub-contract Freebird Entertainment to execute the vision of the AWG Host Society and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies committee. 

The Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games were officially opened on January 29, 2023. The stands in Legacy Dodge Field at Shell Place were filled with chilly yet excited spectators. Light sticks in the Games’ signature colours (green, blue, and purple) were given out to attendees by presenting partner Bouchier, and it was mesmerizing to watch the crowd move the lights in unison to the beats played by DJ QPid. 

Eager participants quickly filled the field, bringing with them high spirits and next-level energy. Even as the opening ceremonies commenced, participants could be seen tossing their glowing wristbands up into the air.

An amazing group of local artists came together to produce the official theme song of the Games, which is a cultural celebration of the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region and the Games itself. 

Attendants enjoyed performances by YMM Dance and music from The Halluci Nation. Out of all of the attendants, the dancers were definitely the highest energy, despite having to perform in some freaky-cold weather in leggings! The Halluci Nation, as always, were incredible and set the stage for some fantastic fireworks and laser displays. 

All of this was made possible through our exciting collaboration with Freebird Entertainment. With no shortage of creativity, resilience, or willingness to hustle in the cold between our two teams, we felt unstoppable planning and executing such a magical event and thoroughly enjoyed working with the team at the AWG Host Society.

Shine on the Snye presented by Athabasca Tribal Council 

Shine on the Snye was a free two-day event sponsored by our friends, Athabasca Tribal Council. Team Balsom was down at the Snye almost all day Monday helping to put up signs and decorations and leading site management on behalf of the AWG and working in partnership with community organizations, First Nations and Metis partners and volunteers. Once the sun had set, the result was absolutely breathtaking. There were lights, fireworks, music, hot chocolate, and even dog-sled rides!

The free two-day event was themed around the northern lights and northern living – the vision of the Host Society led by Allison Flett, Eden Boutilier and Kaylie Breedevelt. 

Snye Point Park came to life with the colours and light production based on the “Time to Shine” theme of the Games. The event featured dog sledding tours with a public viewing, local Indigenous cultural tents/activations, Bannock on a stick, Cree and Dene language displays, campfires with local storytelling and more!

Was it cold? Yes! But everything was heated, so nobody even noticed (well barely!) 

Closing Ceremonies presented by Finning 

The closing ceremonies were bittersweet; sad that it’s over, but glad that it happened. The week had been filled with hard work and rewarding experiences for participants, attendees, and Games staff alike.

While guests waited for the official closing ceremonies to begin, Fort McMurray’s own Joe Rebel took the stage. Nitotem, the official 2023 Games mascot followed as participants, coaches and officials were welcomed to the field.

As part of the closing ceremonies, MKD The Space danced to the music of the legendary Freddie Mercury and Queen. A-B OriginalZ, a trio of performers from Fort McKay First Nation also brought their love of hip-hop music to the stage. Closing out the ceremonies was the Stephanie Harpe Experience – an award-nominated Indigenous tribal rock band, joined by Juno Award-nominated Maria Dunn. 

To bid farewell to the teams and to close out the Games, Randy Martin from Mikisew Cree First Nation and Ryan Grandjambe from Fort McKray First Nation took the stage for an honour song to wish all of the participants well on their journey home. 

Proud Sponsor 

Balsom was proud to be a major partner of this year’s Arctic Winter Games! It was so exciting to see the Host Society work with and support many local businesses and organizations in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region, and we are so honoured to have been a part of it. Through our production support and publishing of the commemorative edition, it was such an exciting and rewarding experience being a part of our region’s time to shine

We are so thankful to the Host Society and all of the other partners who helped support the Games, making it such a success for our region and congratulate their generosity and volunteers! 

Special Commemorative Edition of Your McMurray Magazine 

The team at Your McMurray Magazine, published by Balsom, is incredibly proud to be a part of the special Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games commemorative edition, as well as our sponsorship of the Games. 

Our editorial and design teams worked closely with the Games team to put together this keepsake that is filled from cover to cover with all of the information participants, guests, and community members needed to make the most of the Games. 

From schedules to information about the circumpolar north, ticket information to venue features, readers had so much to learn between the covers of this very special edition! 

We look forward to our region hosting even more multi-sport games or cultural events in the future and being a part of the fun, action and memories being made. Thanks again to the entire AWG host society for bringing Balsom Communications into the events and for the opportunity to work with you and the entire community and to the incredible volunteers who worked by our sides at each event to make them successful – we are so grateful! 

Team Balsom would like to thank and show appreciation to the following Elders, artists, vendors, sub-contractors and contributors on our work on the 2023 Wood Buffalo Arctic Winter Games: 

Arctic Winter Games Host Society and Opening and Closing Ceremonies Committee – Special thanks to the following individuals for supporting our work at the Games: 

  • Eden Boutilier 
  • Elizabeth Priest 
  • Nicole Clow 
  • Erica Moeskau 
  • Kaylie Breedevelt 
  • Jordan Hertner 
  • Allison Flett 
  • Miranda Beaton 
  • Bernie George
  • And the countless other AWG volunteers and team members! 

Opening and Closing Ceremonies Elders, Drummers, Participants and Performers:

  • Elders: Lina Galup and Alice Martin
  • Drummers: Ryan Grandjambe and Randy Marten
  • Theme Song Committee: 
  • Masters of Ceremonies: Holly Fortier, Miranda Beaton and DJ Qpid 

Other Performers and Artists: 

Production Support: Freebird Entertainment 

Fireworks Display: Pyro FX Canada 


Vendors and Contractor Support: 

  • Chad Evoy and the team at Chad’s Contracting 
  • Dan Lipton and Cahill Heating Rentals
  • Cory Bailey and the Vault Pipelines Crew 
  • TerraPro Inc.
  • Burnco 
  • Fort McKay First Nation – and a special thank you to Rick Grandjambe
  • Natalie Kemeny and Printing Unlimited Inc. 
  • Jamie Hearn and the team at Aluma Safway 
  • Jeff Sandeman and Casman Builders 
  • Mike McQuiltor and Encore Tents YMM 
  • United Rentals Power Division (two divisions)
  • United Rentals Equipment Rentals
  • Cougar Fuels
  • Gary Boostroom and Tapway Tipi’s Inc. 
  • Wood Buffalo Food Bank
  • RCMP
  • Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo with a special thank-you to Sianna White 
  • Bouchier
  • ATCO
  • PYRO FX Canada Inc.
  • Pomeroy Hotel
  • ClearWater Hotel
  • RMWB Electricians – Dwight & Randy
  • Canadian Dewatering LP
  • GardaWorld Security
  • United Way
  • Mush McMurray
  • In addition for the Snye Event:
  • A1-Portables
  • RMWB Parks Division
  • Surekhas’ on the Snye

Your McMurray Magazine Special Commemorative Edition Partners: 

  • Printing: Premier Printing
  • Distribution: Media Classified
  • Cover Photography: Elizabeth Priest
  • Contributors: Carol Christian, Curtis J. Phillips, Elizabeth Priest