Winterfest has become region’s largest winter event

There’s snow on the ground, ice on the water and the weather forecast looks promising as Winterfest approaches.

Warren County Winterfest is slated for Jan. 18-20 at Chapman Dam State Park and preparation is well underway. It is, according to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the largest winter event in the Pennsylvania Wilds region.

“Things are looking good,” Chapman Park Manager Jim McCorkle said on Thursday. “We’ve got ice on the lake. We had a few brave souls who went out and tested it doing some ice fishing. The sled riding hill is in good shape. We had a lot of people come out over the holidays, so it’s packed down pretty nice. If the weather forecast holds out, it should shape up nice.”

McCorkle said park staff has been preparing the new ice skating pond and plowing areas usually out of use for the winter in anticipation of the event.

Meanwhile, according to Walt Atwood, the Winterfest Executive Committee is hard at work as well.

“We’re doing all of the logistical stuff now,” Atwood said. “The major development, as far as bringing the event to the public, is revising the Winterfest website.”

According to Atwood, the site has been updated with activity forms and registration information, event details, a new map to help visitors find Chapman State Park and another map with a schedule outlining when and where to find activities.

The site also features individual pages dedicated to some of the activities planned at Winterfest, but those pages don’t cover everything.

“There are actually more activities at Winterfest than there are web pages,” Atwood said.

Winterfest will open Friday morning, Jan. 18, with the Jim Lobdell Memorial Sled Dog Races. The mid-distance race stretching 32 miles, will start at 8:45 a.m. Other sled dog races will run throughout Saturday and Sunday.

Other events scheduled throughout the weekend include a cardboard box derby, sled riding races, toboggan races, inner tube races, open sledding, a quadrathon, trail exploration, snowshoeing, snow sculpting, ice fishing, snowmobile demonstration rides, a geo-meet and geocaching game, the Pat Shine Memorial polar plunge with assistance from the Glade Water Rescue, and outhouse racing, and, new in 2013, horse-drawn trolley rides.

If you’re looking to learn, Winterfest will feature a cross-country ski clinic, a geocaching seminar, learn to skate sessions and a demonstration by the Warren Champions on Ice at the skating pond, an ice safety demonstration and Tales of the Tundra Siberian Husky Rescue.

Refreshments and event information will be available throughout the day on either side of Chapman Lake.

Both McCorkle and Atwood said they would welcome anyone who would like to volunteer to help at the event, or in preparation for it.

“If anyone is interested in volunteering here, call the park,” McCorkle said. “Thanks to all the volunteers who have helped put together Winterfest and make sure everyone can come out and have a good time. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”

According to Atwood, the executive committee will be holding an open meeting for potential volunteers at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie on Pennsylvania Avenue in Warren at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 4. Those who want to help can also call Sharon Miller at 726-1947.

“We could use more volunteers,” Atwood said. “We would be happy to make use of anything they can offer.”

Winterfest information is also available on Facebook by searching for Warren County Winterfest.

“There are some things that are changing, but the schedule of events is mostly done,” Atwood said.

Mostly, according to Atwood, planners are staying positive due to weather.

“It’s really great to see that we have snow outside,” Atwood said. “That’s very encouraging.”