The 37th annual Harbin Snow and Ice Festival of China, the largest ice and snow festival in the world, is continuing on as planned, although with modifications due to new outbreaks of coronavirus nearby.
The winter festival, which is a huge event in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin in Heilongjiang province, has drawn travelers from around China and the world every December and January since 1985. At first participants in the festival were mainly Chinese, however it has since become an international festival and competition, with the 2018 festival attracting 18 million visitors and generating $4.4 billion of revenue. The festival includes the world’s biggest ice sculptures.
The festival going ahead as planned had been hailed as a mark of China’s success in containing and controlling the coronavirus. Many restrictions have been lifted throughout the country, with residents able to travel freely within China’s borders.
But now small outbreaks in the nearby cities of Shenyang and Dalian have resulted in a change of plans. While the festival is still open and visitors can buy tickets to walk through and check out the works of ice art, events and performances have been canceled. That included a planned group wedding ceremony that was supposed to take place on January 5. New Year’s Eve celebrations and a fireworks display were also called off.
“All visitors need to strengthen precautions, present their health codes when entering the park, get their temperature measured, wear masks at all times, and keep a [safe] distance from others in the park,” read a statement shared on the festival’s social media pages.
The health codes mentioned in the statement refer to the app that everyone in China must have on their phones to verify that they are free of COVID-19. The app is also used for contact tracing in case someone becomes ill. Restrictions for domestic travel began lifting in some provinces as early as April 2020.
The annual festival is the world’s largest of its kind.
Every year, workers pull blocks of ice out of the Songhua River, which artists use as the material for their creations. Pressure is always on to outdo the year before, and 2021’s highlights include a “crystal palace,” a 220-square-foot fully functional “ice bar” and a scale model of China’s first aircraft made entirely out of snow.
China will be hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics in conjunction with the snowy northern city of Zhangjiakou, making the Chinese capital the first city ever to host both a Winter and Summer Games.