Opinion: Warming up to Winterlude a ‘cool’ opportunity for Jeopardy! contestants

I love great marketing and I love my hometown of Ottawa. Pair the two and I’m especially delighted.

Add in the company responsible for my first non-babysitting job, and I’m tickled pink, like someone’s nose nipped by Jack Frost while skating on the Rideau Canal.

Ottawa Tourism’s latest capitalization (pun intended) on pop culture to advance awareness and interest in visiting Ottawa by inviting this week’s Jeopardy! contestants was nothing short of brilliant.

Tuesday night’s Final Jeopardy! category was World Capitals. The answer referenced Winterlude and skating on the Rideau Canal. The contestants guessed “Paris” and “Amsterdam,” but, of course, the correct question was: “What is Ottawa?”

Wasting no time, Ottawa Tourism issued a news release Thursday, letting the world know that it had invited the contestants to learn about the annual winter festival in the nation’s capital. Timely communication is key to making sure that a story is newsworthy: wait even a week and the opportunity is typically lost to newer, trending stories.

According to the release, “Genesis Whitlock, a diversity and inclusion professional from Brooklyn, New York, and Amy Schneider, an engineering manager from Oakland, California, are each invited — with a guest of their choice — to spend 3 nights in Canada’s Capital during Winterlude (February 4-21, 2022), including round-trip transportation, hotel accommodation, spending money, and select activities.”

Having grown up in Ottawa, I have always adored Winterlude, and rarely, if ever, missed attending at least one day, until I moved to Sault Ste. Marie in my thirties. If you are not so familiar, Winterlude is Ottawa’s winter celebration that takes place in February, every year since 1979.

For me, the best part was being awed by the ice sculptures after a long skate down the canal. There was always a hot chocolate break and, in later years, a BeaverTail and hot chocolate break. The Rideau Canal, once frozen, offers almost eight kilometres of free skating. It has even been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other businesses and organizations get in on the fun, with indoor and outdoor activities available across the region, including free admission to some museums.

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From the news release, Michael Crockatt, president and CEO of Ottawa Tourism said: “We want to show them what they might have missed, and open their eyes to the wonders of the world’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink, the incredible flavours of BeaverTails, and the compelling stories told in some of our country’s best museums.”

My mother used to revel in telling visitors to our house that her daughter sold tail on the canal for Hookers. Translation: my first job was working for Grant Hooker, the owner of BeaverTails, and I worked throughout Winterlude in a hut on the frozen canal during Winterlude, serving more cinnamon sugar BeaverTail pastries than I could count.

Since 36-year host Alex Trebek’s death, Jeopardy! has been in the spotlight. First it gained renewed interest as it trialed new hosts, including former champion Ken Jennings and The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik. Then, Yale PhD student contestant Matt Amodio had the second longest winning-streak in the show’s history, winning 38 shows and more than $1.5 million in prize-money.

Ottawa Tourism did well to try to get the most out of a bad situation, turning the fact that contestants didn’t know of Canada’s capital’s Winterlude into a public relations opportunity.

Their vision “is to offer the complete capital experience, tell the story of Canada, and get people talking.” I’d say they’ve accomplished getting people talking. Now they’ll wait to see how many media outlets pick up the story, and whether the contestants take them up on their offer.

To Genesis and Amy, you’d be crazy not to take up Ottawa Tourism on their “cool” socially-distanced outdoor activity. When you arrive, take it from an expert in making the whole-wheat, deep-fried pastries that the Killaloe sunrise is the best BeaverTail in town, as it pairs the classic cinnamon sugar with a refreshing squeeze of lemon.

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