This past week the snow was deep, but the smiles were big at Ranch Ehrlo Society’s southern 1st Annual Fishing Derby at Echo Lake, part of programs south Winterfest.

Every year Ranch Ehrlo breaks the winter blues by hosting Winterfest. The last two years were modified to adhere to the pandemic restrictions. Activities are all outdoors and allow everyone with every skill level to participate.

There have been Winterfests at the Ranch since the early 1970s. Winters in Saskatchewan can be long, so the staff wanted to encourage the participants to break the monotony and have fun outside. The festival started small by the few employees at the original Pilot Butte campus but has now grown to having two events: one in the south, and one in the north for all the participants to enjoy.

The purpose of the Winterfest has always been to bring smiles to the faces of all the youth and create positive memories. Staff and volunteers work hard towards the common goal of making an exciting and meaningful experience for participants.

This year, a fishing derby was added as a new event the Winterfest, and it was by far the most popular activity. More than 150 people attended the Echo Lake site to make it a day to remember. Laughter and conviviality could be heard all the way to the shore.

The Ranch is guided by the six principles of CARE: relationship-based, developmentally focused, family involvement, competence-centred, trauma-informed, and ecologically oriented.

The Winterfest contributes to the competencies and development of participants by encouraging them to practice their critical thinking, flexibility, coping, emotional regulation, and problem-solving skills. This year, they were able to work on their manual dexterity by tying a hook on the fishing line and other physical activities. The Winterfest creates an excellent opportunity for growth.

The event contributes to the trauma-informed principle by providing positive, healthy memories for participants.

Their ecological needs are met by being active outdoors and enjoying nature in a safe, supportive, and entertaining environment. The staff and volunteers work hard so all the participants feel included, recognized, accepted, and valued.

Participants can work on their relationships by interacting with each other, and socializing with their peers, staff, and leadership who attend. They share food and fun in a family atmosphere. There are prizes and awards for all the youth, so everyone gets something at the event.

Thank you to the volunteer organizers, volunteers, and generous community sponsors for ensuring such a successful and memorable event.