Our History - Going Back to 1964!
Bon Soo - as we now know it - was originally the idea of Sault Ste. Marie businessman Henry Bullock. The first Carnival was held in 1964. In the beginning it was a collection of events that already existed in the City, but were encouraged by the Chamber of Commerce to come together in a Carnival Format. The primary purpose was to add excitement to the long winter season - but early organizers also recognized this great opportunity to boost Tourism and business during the historically slower first quarter of the year.
This new Carnival needed a name. A contest was held and ultimately won by a then ten-year old student at Parkland Public School, Donald Norman. His winning entry was, of course, "Bon Soo". A play on the French word "bon", meaning good, and "Soo", the nickname for Sault Ste. Marie. A local artist, Ken McDougall, was hired to create a character to represent this spirit of Winter Fun, and his creation became the Host of our Carnival.
Bon Soo grew and flourished. Many great Community Volunteers came forward to serve on the Committee, until Incorporation in 1978 brought about the first Board of Directors. Staff was eventually required to handle arrangements for the growing Carnival, and the first Manager, Donna Gregg, was hired and served until her retirement in 2006. Staff continues to work 8 months out of the year, but there is no question that Bon Soo is powered by Volunteers.
Always ready to embrace the Northern Ontario Climate, organizers created giant Bum Slides made entirely of snow and ice at the waterfront downtown - enjoyed by both the young and young at heart. Dances, breakfasts, and a wide variety of performances and contests became part of Bon Soo; ending with the chilling, thrilling, Polar Bear Swim!
Sponsorships and support from the Business Community are a vital part of Bon Soo. As a not for profit corporation, the Carnival could not exist without the generosity of Sponsors. If Volunteers are the heart of Bon Soo, and they are, then Sponsors are our backbone.
2007 brought changes to Sault Ste. Marie, and Bon Soo. With further development of the beautiful boardwalk system, the Bum Slides needed to find a new home, and the City provided one. This move to Bellevue Park gave Bon Soo room to grow and expand activities, and the Winter Playground was born. The Playground offers ten days of Winter activities to all who visit, including the famous Bum Slides. The Winter Playground is truly the manifestation of Mr. Bullock’s founding vision - to bring people out of their homes and celebrating Community Spirit.
Mr. Bon Soo and his friends now host the annual event at The Machine Shop. The move allowed Bon Soo events to include indoor activities such as concerts and shows! As always, everyone's favourite Bum Slides are located in the Winter Playground plus the new Hay Maze and Lock City colouring wall.
Years later, Mr. Bon Soo is still smiling, and welcomes you to join us as we celebrate what has become the "Fifty-ninth Season" in Northern Ontario - catch the Bon Soo Spirit - it’s the greatest snow on earth!