B y Derek Liebig
With one of the coldest, snowiest winters in recent memory, members of the Whitehall Winterfest committee couldn’t ask for better conditions.
“This is wonderful weather for Winterfest,” Marge Mohn, committee member said. “I think it’s going to make a world of difference, the snow. We always try to have a few indoor events but it’s nice have the snow.”
Mother Nature has not been kind to the annual festival over the past few years. Two years ago temperatures were so mild that most of the Whitehall Harbor was open water and while temperatures were more seasonable last year, there was little to no snow.
“This year, with the weather, it should be good,” Mohn said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
This year’s festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15.
The festival gets off to a shiver-inducing start with the annual Penguin Plunge at the Whitehall Marina on North Main Street. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m.
A few intrepid individuals, dressed in zany costumes, will brave the icy waters of Lake Champlain for a refreshing mid-winter swim.
Those who don the most outlandish costume will win a prize.
Just prior to the Penguin Plunge, Supervisor George Armstrong and Mayor Peter Telisky will deliver commencement speeches and Paul Sheppard, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, will give a Blessing (presumably to ensure participants in the Penguin Plunge don’t turn into human ice cubes). Bill Jones will also sing “God Bless America.”
Following the penguin dip, festival-goers will find a variety of activities on Skenesborough Drive, the newest of which is a Winter Raptor preview.
Mohn said Friends of the Washington County Important Bird Area will bring with them and discuss a number of birds of prey.
“People are fascinated by raptors and I think it’s going to be really good,” Mohn said.
The raptors discussion will be held at the Canal Corp. Visitors Center, which will also serve as an art gallery displaying the creative talents of local high school students.
This year’s weather will permit the Railroaders’ Snowmobile Club to give snowmobile rides, an attraction that’s been missing from the past few festivals.
The Skenesborough Museum will be open throughout the day, Wing’s Clydesdales Wagon Rides will be offered along Skenesborough Drive and at noon at the Whitehall EMS building Paul Bartholomew will speak on Sasquatch. The Chamber of Commerce will also unveil its Holiday Decorating Contest winners at the Whitehall Municipal Center.
Legion Post 83 will host its third annual Chili Cook-off beginning at noon. The event, which has quickly become a staple of the festival, pits amateur cooks in a culinary battle royal to determine who makes the best batch of chili in the greater Whitehall area.
“The contest has been a great addition to Winterfest. I can’t wait to try some of the chili,” Mohn said.
At 2 p.m. the venue will shift to the United Methodist Church on Greenmount Cemetery Lane where there will be sledding and refreshments.
“We have all the favorite events and have tacked on some new ones,” Mohn said. “It should be good.”
Admission to Winterfest is free.