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âBy hosting events like Winterfest, we are trying to create awareness about Lake Geneva and bring attention to the opportunities that we offer here,â said Darien Schaefer, president of the Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. âLake Geneva is a premier resort destination and Winterfest helps showcase all the other things going on in the area during the winter, too, like the prospects for snowmobiling and skiing.
âItâs also just a great event for locals to enjoy.â
Although the staple event of Winterfest long has been the much-anticipated U.S. Nationals Snow Sculpting Competition, and likely will continue that way, the chamber is trying to boost the festivalâs profile this year and include new activities to engage the public. The move was decided last year and the chamber is hoping that itâs a step toward increasing popularity and reach, as Winterfest goes into its second decade in 2015.
âWe asked ourselves how do we expand upon the event, take advantage of that awareness thatâs generated, so a committee was formed and they planned a weekâs worth of extra activities to expand it,â Schaefer said. âAs early as November they fleshed out a number of events and a lot of them are trying new things, with hopes that we can expand upon them in the upcoming year.â
One of the new events that seems to have locals talking is the Winterfest Human Dog Sled Competition, slated to be held at the Riviera Beach on Feb. 7 and Feb. 8. The chamber is encouraging anyone interested to take the reins and form their own team for the sled race. Teams will compete against one another in a double-elimination tournament to determine the winner of the two-day event.
Each team will consist of six people: four sled pullers, a sled rider and a sled pusher. The sled race will take place on a stretch of beach about 175 feet long. In addition to cash prizes being awarded to the top three teams, the participants will have a chance to score a team prize for the most wacky and creative attire. Proceeds from registration for the event will benefit Lakeland Animal Shelter.
âThere are a lot of businesses challenging each other to put together a team and have a showdown,â he said. âSome of the restaurants are putting together teams; the police and fire department are going to try to as well.
âWe just pulled the sleds out the other day and gave them a test drive. Basically you have four people that pull, one person that rides and one person on the back who steers and gives it some weight, so a total of six people.â
Residents and businesses interested in registering a team for the event have until Feb. 6 to get in on the action.
Art in the snow
The U.S. Nationals Snow Sculpting Competition will continue to be the premier event at Winterfest. As usual, the sculpting will be done in Riviera Park. The 9-foot snow blocks will be built on Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 27 and Jan. 28, and the teams will be at work sculpting from Wednesday, Jan. 29, through Friday, Jan. 31. The sculpting will wrap up on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 1, and will culminate in the awards presentation, open to the public, held in the Riviera Ballroom.
The U.S. Nationals champion team will be crowned, and the second, third and peopleâs choice teams will receive awards.
If you ask Don Berg, the U.S. Nationals Snow Sculpting Competition event director, Lake Geneva is the perfect place for the competition.
âLake Geneva is a great location because itâs centrally located and very near major metropolitan cities,â Berg said. âThe resort and tourism highlights along with a major winter showcase event makes Lake Geneva a very attractive winter destination. Lake Geneva is on the minds of every sculpting team as their ultimate goal. They always remark on how âopen-armedâ the people are and how well they are treated when they visit.â
As if the human dog sledding and snow sculpting wasnât enough, this year promises to be one full of opportunities for fun and entertainment. There will be helicopter and carriage rides, laser tag at the YMCA, a fire ring on the beach with hot chocolate and sâmores and a bingo night to name a few events that are planned.
Winterfest proves that while the weather can sometimes push us inside, it canât keep us there. The festival is a chance for locals, businesses and visitors to get together and kick the winter blues.
âItâs going to be great ... expanding it into an extra week will really help grow Winterfest ... â said Kevin Fleming, president of the Lake Geneva Downtown Business Association.