Last year ESL students were handing out free hugs and kids were crawling all over the snow globes art installation at the Winterval event. With any luck there will be some craziness again this year.

The annual celebration of winter — which includes a parade and live entertainment in downtown Whitehorse — is gearing up to show everyone from babies to senior citizens a good time.

This year the Winterval event starts on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Main Street and First Avenue. The parade participants — the giant puppets, the people dressed up in festive outfits, the kids, the clowns, the people carrying home made lanterns, the people riding floats — will wind their way to LePage Park.

That’s when the dancers, carolers, storytellers and fire performers will take to the stage and mill through the crowd, offering interactive entertainment.

A special guest for the Winterval celebration is Santa Claus, who will hunker down in the Santa House so kids can visit with him and tell him how good they’ve been this year and have their photo taken.

The Winterval celebration is organized by the Yukon Educational Theatre organization, with Erin Corbett as artistic director. She and her team have spent time delving into their imaginations to come up with an eclectic bunch of delights to offer the public for the annual event.

“We’re doing a snow wall with projections on it playing with light and shadow and it’ll be interactive so kids will be able to get in the way of the shadows and draw with the light,” says Corbett. “So, I want to emphasize that we do still have light and the darkness is not bad — savour the light that’s around and appreciate the darkness.”

Winterval is really a celebration of winter and all that it brings, Corbett says. Including the darkness. And the snow. And the cold.

“The idea is to create a magical event that is free to people and anyone can come, so in this case we’re welcoming winter and it’s a time to (a) hunker down and start spending more time with your family or, (b) you can end up getting depressed,” Corbett says. “But we want to say, ‘There’s so much to do as a community.’ There’s breakdancing in the snow; crafting; dancing; making music and jamming together…”

One of the magical elements of the Winterval event is that teens like it too.

“They were hard-core participating last year — they were break dancing, they did a flash mob where someone put some music on and then a bunch of them showed up and had a dance party; they did gymnastics in the parade or they were carrying banners with the letters spelling the word ‘Winterval;’ they carried puppets; they were drumming on buckets,” Corbett says.

It’s an event that will give all ages a laugh and brings all ages together. It gives the 20-year-olds an opportunity to see the world of 10-year-olds again, for example, and have fun together. And it gives the grandparents something to take their grandkids to and share a laugh.

“Last year I also saw an emergence of kids in their early 20s and they brought out their drums and rocked out,” Corbett says. “That’s the cross-pollinating of the community — having these exchanges with all ages.”

The parade has been planned so that even kids that are new to walking can join in: it takes approximately 15 minutes from start to finish. Toddlers can give it a go, and when they tire, the end will be in sight, so parents can easily pull them the rest of the way on a sled.

“Last year these kids all jumped onstage with the clowns and it was awesome to see them interacting and taking over the space,” Corbett says. “And it was awesome to see kids climbing on the ice globes [that were made especially for the event]; they were all over everything and they really wanted to be in it.”

The Winterval parade and celebration begins with the lighting of the Christmas tree at Main Street and First Avenue at 4:30 p.m., Santa will start the parade at 4:45 p.m. and the celebration at LePage Park on Third Avenue will continue until 7 p.m.

To enter a float or volunteer please contact Lauren Tuck, Winterval producer, at 336-2576.