People poured into Whitehall on Saturday to enjoy food, music, art and even a dip in Lake Champlain as the community celebrated the season during the 14th annual Winter Festival.
Sponsored by the Arts and Recreation Commission of Whitehall and supported by the Whitehall Chamber of Commerce, Main Street was abuzz with activity as revelers dined on chili and chowder, took rides in a horse-drawn wagon, learned about Big Foot and listened to acoustic music.
“The event ran smoothly. We had great turnout at the dip and the Chili cook-off was also well attended. There was a lot of positive feedback,” said Dana Grant, president of the Whitehall Chamber of Commerce.
More than a hundred people attended the event with the largest crowd gathering at the Whitehall Marina to watch a dozen hardy individuals jump in the icy waters of Lake Champlain.
Children and adults alike gathered at the marina shortly before 10 a.m. and members of the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company’s Ice Rescue Response Team were on standby in the event anyone needed some assistance.
Jane Gendron and Marge Mohn, veterans of the Penguin Dip, were the first two in the water and were followed by a host of participants dressed in outrageous costumes. Melissa Smith dressed as Oscar the Grouch, Steve Roberts wore a colorful feathered head dress, Tyler Rollins swam in a Big Foot costume and Gary Schultz came dressed as a voluptuous woman.
“It’s just another day at the beach,” Mohn joked.
But the biggest applause was reserved for Al Greene who jumped in the water wearing a pair of shorts emblazoned with the official Army logo and a cutoff camouflage vest.
Greene, who made the drive from Fair Haven, said he was jumping in the water to honor his friend and Bronze Star recipient Paul Neidert.
“This is for all the veterans who have gone through much worse,” Greene said.
Each of the participants received a long sleeved shirt with official Penguin Dip logo, which was designed by Whitehall High School student Heather Michaud.
After a change of clothes and a warm cup of coffee, many of the revelers made their way to Main Street for the rest of the event’s activities.
A number toured the Skenesborough Museum or checked out the Skenesborough Pavilion where the work of local students and artists was hung. Other listened to Paul Bartholomew discuss Big Foot and many took a ride aboard John Shaw’s Clydesdale-driven wagon. But the most popular activity was the American Legion Post 83’s second annual Chili cook-off where dozens paid $2 to sample 11 different kinds of chili.
Grant thanked the generous support of the local business community, the many organizations that participated and the Whitehall Winter Festival committee for helping make the event a reality.
“Winterfest could not have happened without many, many helpful people,” Grant said. “It was a huge success.”