The Cochrane Winter Carnival is in its 59th annual year of the winter festival and will run from February 8th to 18th 2019 this year with the theme of Hollywood.

The first-ever carnival was more than 80 years ago – and as one can imagine, it has changed a lot over the years. With many ebbs and flows, it has grown, shrunk, and been revamped several times, but it has always been a celebration of winter.


The first winter celebration took place in Cochrane in 1934. It was a one-day event that drew attendees from neighbouring communities with an enticing “special one cent per mile” bargain on rail fare. The carnival featured dog sled, snow shoe, and cross country ski races, for which prizes included a box of cigars, a ham, and $1 in milk tickets. In the evening, the Cochrane Band played for a fancy dress and moccasin dance.

This version of the carnival continued in smaller iterations until it dwindled around 1940. It wasn’t until 1963 that the annual carnival was relaunched, this time with a princess pageant, a fishing derby, and a polar bear dip – all events that continue today. In fact, the early years saw a number of events that are carried on now, including a parade, hockey games, torch light parades, a curling bonspiel and a variety show.

Snowmobiles were also a feature early in Carnival’s days (although certainly not in 1934). The 1965 Carnival advertised a “skidoo daredevil show” and 1974 had a snowmobile obstacle course.

Chief Commando was the symbol for the first few years. Named for the town’s central lake, the Chief was an aboriginal man who donned a Plains Cree headdress. However, the polar bear was introduced as a symbol in 1969, and by 1973, the annual event was officially named “Chimo,” which is an Inuktitut greeting (and the name of Cochrane’s mascot). The name Chimo has stuck around since then. Themes have also played a key role in carnival, helping to guide parade floats and events.

Themes have often reflected historical and current events; 1967’s theme was Canada’s centennial year, 1970’s was Cochrane’s diamond jubilee, and 1988’s was the Olympics, which took place in Calgary. The event has grown in length over the years. In the mid-1960s, carnival took place over an extended weekend, totalling four days. In the 1970s, it expanded to six days, running from Tuesday to Sunday. And in 1993, it was finally extended to cover two weekends, as town councillors agreed that there were too many events being crammed into Saturday and Sunday.


This year follows much of the same events as the previous years, including the Torchlight Parade, Demolition Derby, Polar Bear Dip and Lake Activities, Firemen vs OPP Hockey Game, Wing-A-Thon, Snowmobile Drag Races, Chimo Bantom Hockey Tournament, Carnival Parade, Ice Sculpture Competition, Thunderation Week and so much more.

For a full schedule of events, please visit or follow the Cochrane Winter Carnival page on Facebook.