No snow? No problem at festival

A lack of snow and a sunny sky didn’t keep the 2013 Warren County Winterfest from drawing a crowd on Saturday.

Despite the cancellation of the sled dog races, ski-joring and many of the other snow-dependent events, there was still much to see at Chapman Dam over the weekend.

Rick Boni, an internationally recognized chainsaw artist, made his debut at Winterfest this year. Though he is the co-founder of Appalachian Arts Studio in Ridgway and someone who has traveled the world displaying his craft, for Boni it started in his backyard with an electric saw and a kitchen knife. “It would take three and a half days (to carve) a four-foot figure. Five years later, I was down to one day. Three years after that, I started booking gigs. Now, it takes me about an hour to finish that same figure that took me three and a half days when I first started,” he explained.

Boni has taught his craft in Japan, has been to competitions in Germany, and regularly carves at Ridgway Rendevous.

“I feel like my part is to play in society a bit,” he added.

While the chainsaw artists could be heard revving their saws, a more peaceful and interactive adventure was taking place in the woods surrounding Chapman Dam State Park. Jean Gomory and Gary Lester were in charge of the Quadrathlon, a year-round event, for the third year.

“It’s an activity to get people active and into nature,” explained Gomory. “It helps to cultivate an appreciation for nature in all seasons.”

In the Quadrathlon, there is an event each season of the year involving a combination of some sort of immersion into nature, trivia and a scavenger hunt.

“There are multiple choice questions that you have to answer and follow the directions based on the answer you chose,” Gomory and Lester explained. “You don’t find out if you chose the right answer until you get to the next location. If you’re wrong you have to backtrack.”

The Warren County Quadrathlon includes a nature hike in the spring, a canoe paddle in the summer, a bike or hike in the fall, and cross country skiing or snow-shoeing in the winter. This year, due to the weather, the winter portion became a hike.

On the other side of the lake, spectators quickly began to crowd around the bike-joring and Canicross demonstrations put on by several outfits including Tails of the Tundra, a Siberian Husky rescue organization out of Philadelphia.

The excited cries and barking of the sled dogs echoed through the area as they took off down the road and out of sight.

Just down the road, Alan Dowdy, Turtle Clan, Tuscarora Nation and Gonio Miller, Turtle Clan Mohawk Nation put on an exhibition of Native American song and dance featuring handmade instruments and songs passed down throughout the years by word of mouth.

Dowdy said, “This is just a sample of the songs we learn. At a big gathering, we could start (singing and dancing) in the morning and go all day and all night. It’s important for us to learn the songs and memorize the right order or else they don’t mean the same thing. They aren’t written down, just passed down from generation to generation.”

Finally, the weight pull competition went on without a hitch thanks to some clever planning by Winterfest coordinators. “They trucked over snow for the pad this morning,” explained Sheryl Franklin who is a member of the International Weight Pull Association. Hailing from Philadelphia, Franklin and her dogs came to Winterfest this year for the third time to compete in the weight pull.

“The goal is to win their class,” she explained. “There is also an overall contest for most weight pulled, as well as a best body percentage based on their weight versus how much they pulled.”

Winterfest continued on Sunday with food and crafts, exhibitions and more still slated.

(Footage of Winterfest is now available on individual articles as well as on Brian’s blog. His blog can be found at )