If you think you have missed the Clearfield YMCA’s annual Winterfest at Parker Dam State Park, you didn’t. This year it is being held in February instead of the usual January.
“We are trying to get away from the weekends with the NFL playoffs,” explained Chief Executive Officer Brian McDonald.
The change for the two-day event puts it on Saturday, Feb. 17 and Sunday, Feb. 18,which you would think could help with the snow situation, which was a problem last year, but the weather in late January turned very mild with temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s.
“We have our fingers crossed that it hopefully (lake) freezes over,” McDonald said. There was some snow at the park the last time McDonald was there.
Last year there was no ice, but the activities carried on, as best they could.
One of the most popular activities is the Polar Bear Plunge, which is usually done through a hole cut in the ice. Last year, the participants ran from the beach into the water, which isn’t quite as much fun, he said.
The Freeze Your Gizzard 5K, the other most popular activity, is not impacted by the weather.
“The 5K happens regardless.”
McDonald admitted that attendance was down last year, which was expected for an occasion that is designed around snow.
“If we have lots of snow, we get a better turn out.”
If it is at least cold enough for ice, they can still have ice skating and teach people how ice skate. In order to clear the lake for ice skating, there needs to be four inches of ice, according to Parker Dam authorities.
Still this family-friendly event can be a nice day out. Admittance to the park is free and there are many free activities and demonstrations.
All day Saturday and Sunday you can make your own snow art for the Snow Sculpture Contest, which is free for all ages. You can make a snowman, snow woman, snow dogs, snow robots or whatever you like.
In addition you can ice skate, ice fish and go sledding, all for no cost as well.
A concession stand opens at 9 a.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday, making it easy to plan to stay the entire day.
McDonald stated that the menu is being expanded this season, but they will continue to have the “classics” including hot dogs.
“Whatever activities we have, people work up an appetite,” he noted.
The Freeze Your Gizzard 5K is held Saturday at 10 a.m.
“Wear your craziest hat or sports-inspired costume and kick off YMCA WinterFest while trekking through the frozen tundra and enjoying the beautiful wintry scenery at Parker Dam State Park!” it says on the sign-up page.
“This race is all about fun! Unique race awards will be given to the most unique hat, the most creative costume, overall male and female runners, the person who has traveled the furthest, the oldest participant and more!”
To sign up, go to the YMCA’s Facebook page where you will find a link and more info. The cost is $20 plus a sign-up fee. If you have questions, call the YMCA at 814-765-5521.
Other scheduled activities on Saturday are:
- 10:30 a.m., Learn to Ice Skate (skate rentals until 4 p.m.).
- 12 p.m., Arctic Blast Cornhole Tournament– the cost is $10 per two-person team and you must register in advance by calling the YMCA. This is a double elimination tournament. Participants receive a free hot dog.
- 1:30 p.m., Wild Ways of Keeping Warm
- 3 p.m., Snow Sculpture Judging
The Polar Bear Swim is on Sunday at 4 p.m.
This competition raises money for the YMCA’s scholarship program, which provides memberships to children not able to afford the normal fee.
You can pick up a sponsorship packet at the YMCA. Participants must by at least 12-years-old. A minimum of $25 is required to participate for adults and $20 for those 12 to 21-years-old.
All swimmers get a Polar Bear t-shirt. Swimmers raising $100 will receive a polar bear beach towel and those raising $250 or more will get a heavyweight polar bear sweatshirt.
Also on Sunday:
- 12 p.m., Historic Ice Harvesting Demonstration
- 12:30 p.m., Ice Fishing Basics
- 1 p.m., Kids Snow Box Derby: Registration is free and starts at 12:30 p.m.
- 2 p.m., Frozen Salami Sling is a fun free competition for all ages.
- 2:30 p.m., Ice Rescue Demonstration
- 3 p.m., Snow Sculpture Judging
Getting out in the fresh air is a good way to fight the winter blahs and Parker Dam is the perfect place for it.
“It’s a great time for the whole family. There is not a lot to do this time of the year, and this has something for everyone, from old to young,” McDonald said.