Winter special: Winterlude’s Papa Ice Hog is an alumni and a photographer

Whether he's inside a mascot suit, unable to see, or working as a festival photographer, Greg Scriver has an insider's view of the February event
Photo: Kerry Slack
Papa Ice Hog fixes Mama Ice Hog's scarf as they pose for pictures along Sparks Street.

Amidst the frosty landscape Algonquin College alumnus, Greg Scriver is wearing his favourite pair of shorts and a t-shirt – and he’s still too hot.

Scriver, the embodiment of the Canadian spirit, is eager to bask in winter’s icy embrace however he finds himself donning summer clothing under the huge Papa Ice Hog costume.

Greg has worn the mascot suit since 2017.

“When Heritage Canada said they needed someone to be a mascot, I threw my hand up,” said Scriver. “It’s exhausting, but it’s so rewarding.”

Despite the many challenges of wearing the suit, it remains one of Scriver’s best Winterlude memories. Having worn the suit for seven years he delights in making people smile.

“The suit is incredibly hot,” he said. “We don’t talk, and we can’t see in the costume, so it’s a challenge but it’s the best.”

Winterlude, Ottawa 2024.
Papa Ice Hog and Mama Ice Hog pose for a photo on Sparks Street. Photo credit: Kerry Slack

“We have handlers who help us a great deal. We take short shifts with the suit on, and it’s thumbs up or thumbs down to signal our handlers,” said Scriver.

Scriver is highly regarded by his Heritage Canada coworkers as well.

“Greg is great at getting people to engage with him, without saying a word,” said Micheline Roy, a fellow volunteer and Papa Ice Hog handler. “Because we know that Papa Ice Hog does not speak. Winterlude guest community loves Papa Ice Hog and cannot wait to hug him.”

When he is not volunteering to wear the Papa Ice Hog suit at Winterlude Scriver spends a lot of time on the other side of a camera lens as a photographer.

Capturing the essence of the festival for Heritage Canada, Greg Schriver enjoys his second volunteer role.
Capturing the essence of the festival for Heritage Canada, Greg Scriver enjoys his second volunteer role. Photo credit: Kerry Slack

Nature is his favourite thing to capture, and sunset and sunrise photos were a source of enrichment for Scriver through the COVID lockdowns.

“I started photography back in high school, but I got away from it. It was COVID that got me back into my photography,” said Scriver. “I originally started putting the photos on my Facebook page. I drew so much traffic that I made a Greg Scriver photography page.”

He is not the only one who has enjoyed his daily posts.

“There was one lady who said she suffered from anxiety and depression for years, but seeing my photos daily reduced her anxiety and depression and gave her something to look forward to each day,” said Scriver. “That felt amazing. What do you say to that?”

His photos often appear on CTV photos of the day and APTN photos of the day.

His wife prepares any time they leave the house.

“I wear a lot of layers. We are sometimes out here for hours, and I have a good time watching him do his thing and getting to know people,” said Kim Scriver.

Scriver graduated from the computer science specialist program at Algonquin in 2000.

“Back then I attended an office building on Elgin Street, that’s where the classes were,” said Scriver. “I graduated with honours in January 2000 and now I work for the federal government as an IT professional.”

In his spare time, Scriver volunteers all over the city at many events including being a volunteer for Heritage Canada.

“Being Papa Ice Hog is my favourite role. To see, in my case not see, a child, waddling towards you with their arms out to hug your knees, it melts your heart,” said Scriver.

“I call it therapy because I’m smiling, they’re smiling. Even adults want a big hug and a photo,” he said.

Greg Schriver arriving on Sparks Street for an afternoon of photography.
Greg Scriver arriving on Sparks Street for an afternoon of photography. Photo credit: Kerry Slack

Winterlude festivities extend beyond the confines of ice and snow, encompassing culinary delights, live music performances, and cultural exhibitions.

Despite the frosty temperatures that typify Ottawa in February, Winterlude proves that the cold months need not dampen our spirits.

If you find yourself strolling through Ottawa during the last weekend of this year’s Winterlude and happen upon Papa Ice Hog, say hello.

Depending on which role he’s in that day, you may see the red vest and the camera, or you may see the big, fluffy suit.

Either way, Scriver is grateful to be a part of it.

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