After a one-year hiatus, the Whitehall Winter Festival will return later this month, even if winter will not.
“It will be held snow or not,” said Jane Gendron, a member of the festival committee. “There will be lots of exciting activities.”
Last year’s event in its traditional form was canceled because of several conflicting events in town. The congregation of the Whitehall United Methodist Church stepped up late to hold a scaled-down version, but organizers promise this year’s event will return to its original glory.
“We’re in better physical condition and have plenty of volunteers this year,” Gendron said. “It’s an opportunity for children who may not have a lot of money to enjoy some winter-themed activities. It’s a fun, community-spirited event created for tourists and Whitehall folks alike.”
The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, and most events will be held at or near the Skenesborough Harbor Park on Skenesborough Drive.
Although the mild winter weather and complete lack of snow have forced cancellation of
some activities – ice castle building, snowmobile rides and sledding – many of the most popular events will return.
The opening ceremonies and Penguin Dip, both held at the Whitehall Marina, will kick off the festival.
The Penguin Dip will feature at least a dozen intrepid souls who will brave and take a very brief swim in the icy cold waters of Lake Champlain. Those who have the courage to jump in the lake will receive a complimentary T-shirt. This year’s shirt was designed by a local high school student and made available by a $300 donation from the Whitehall Chamber of Commerce.
Those who prefer to swim during the warmer months of the year can still stop by the marina and watch. Gendron said the spectator-friendly event attracts upwards of 100 people who watch from the comparatively warm confines of shore.
Other activities include horse and wagon rides from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., tug of war, an art show featuring the creative work of local students, a hat contest and a variety of children’s games.
Gendron said the Skenesborough Museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Paul Bartholomew will give a presentation on Whitehall’s most elusive primate, Sasquatch.
“He’s written a book on the subject and is considered an expert. He gives a great lecture, complete with plaster of paris. He’s totally engaging and the children really enjoy it,” Gendron said.
A new edition to the slate of events is American Legion Post 83’s Chili Cook Off.
For a $1 donation, festival goers will be able to taste a variety of chili and vote for their favorite from noon to 2 p.m. at the post on Main Street.
Anyone who thinks they have the culinary gusto to whip up a mean batch of chili is encouraged to stop by the post and sign up as a cook.
Other treats will be available at the park and organizers continue to work on additional activities.
Admission to the festival is free.