Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hot and bothered

Pooh festival a real scorcher, but 60,000 have honey of a time

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IT was so hot, even Winnie the Pooh parked himself in front of a fan.

Yesterday's fourth annual Pooh Friendship Day at Assiniboine Park coincided with the hottest day of the summer, so far -- a 35-degree scorcher that left festival-goers wilted and red-faced.

The Disney mascots, including Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet, likely had the hottest jobs of the day and were given frequent breaks to cool off.

Other savvy festival-goers huddled under parasols and floppy hats, sought out sprinklers and kept their hair wet for added relief.

Two big Pooh balloons offered Grunthal resident Jenn Friesen some shade from the sun. Along with a friend, she was watching the singers and dancers on the Lyric stage while her husband ferried the kids through various festival activities.

"My husband builds houses, so he's kind of used to the heat, so we sent him off with the kids," laughed Friesen.

The Power 97 radio DJ was overheard begging for a Slurpee, and it was even too hot for ice cream, according to one Dickie Dee salesman who reported somewhat slow business.

While Pooh's favourite saying may be "oh, bother" visitors still had a honey of a time.

The heat had one obvious advantage for Pooh fans -- the festival grounds were about half as crowded as last year.

"It's very warm, but it means less crowds," said Lisa Thompson, who had her three-year-old, Xavier, in tow.

Organized jointly by Disney Interactive and Partners in the Park, the festival is meant to celebrate Winnie the Pooh's Winnipeg heritage.

Disney spokeswoman Debbie Gagne said about 60,000 people attended the free festival, a little short of the average attendance of 80,000 to 90,000 people.

"It was really stifling," she said of the weather. "We found that people who would normally stay the whole day just stayed for one or two hours."

But festival organizers tried to keep people cool by setting up a few sprinklers and dispatching at least two crews of volunteers armed with backpack sprayers able to spritz parched people.

Paramedics patrolling the site by bike reported about 15 cases of heatstroke by about 3:30 p.m.

Tented activities in the shade, including cookie decorating, colouring and bracelet-making, proved most popular, but many kids seemed unfazed by boiling temperatures and made slide after slide on the huge blow-up rides.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 18, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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