People may not have been able to see them through their masks but there was lots of smiling faces in Rankin Inlet last weekend as the community celebrated its Pakallak Tyme spring festival.

It was the first time the five-day event was hosted after it was cancelled last year due to the threat of Covid-19.

“It’s important to get your mind off nothing but Covid all the time,” Mayor Harry Towtongie told Kivalliq News. “Hopefully this will give people a break from the same old thing.”

This year’s festival also risked being cancelled after an outbreak of Covid-19 in Iqaluit led to two cases travelling to Rankin. Those two people have been isolated since they landed and so far there has been no signs of community spread.

When council submitted its plans to go ahead with Pakallak Tyme to the chief public health officer, his office responded by warning the community not to go ahead with it. However, in the end the final decision rested with Rankin’s council.

“He’s not bullying us, he’s giving us the chance to run our own thing,” said Towtongie.

Based on that fact the two people who tested positive are in isolation, council made the decision to go ahead with the festival.

“We decided to go ahead and do it and follow all the Covid protocols we’ve following for almost a year and a half now,” said Towtongie. “Council made a tough decision to vote but it unanimously got passed that we would have it.”

Council also decided that if another case was discovered while Pakallak Tyme was running, all events would immediately be cancelled.

“If there’s any other case in Rankin we’re going to shut everything down,” Towtongie said on the second day of the festival.

No other communities invited

One of the harder decisions council had to make was not inviting other communities to take part in Pakallak Tyme.

Normally Rankin welcomes anyone who wants to attend. However, based on the chief public health officer’s concerns that travellers might inadvertently spread Covid-19 in their communities upon return, council took the extraordinary measure of only allowing Rankin residents to participate this year.

“We really regret not having other communities come in to see us. Like Whale Cove and Arviat, they’ve been hard hit too,” said Towtongie.

“Council feels really bad about that but we had to do this.”

Organizers also made the tough decision to cancel most large indoor events like square dances and feasts. There were also some new events this year, including a version of the once-popular television show Fear Factor.

In the event, which was broadcast online via Facebook, eight contestants had to fight their way through a series of obstacle courses, which involved having to consume a glass of raw eggs among other things.

And of course there were the snowmobile races.

“People have been practising and working on their equipment for the past few years so we had to do our best to try to have races,” said Towtongie.

Towtongie said the community has done such a good job of following Covid-19 protocols throughout the pandemic that they deserve to have something to celebrate.

“It’s that time of year when there are kids playing on Williamson Lake all the time every day. That night when we heard there was Covid, there was nobody out there. It’s hard to believe, it was almost automatic. This is how much the community is following the Covid rules,” he said.

“We should be commending the people on that.”

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