Seasonal Ice

rip-roarin’ winter festival puts ATVs, cars, on frozen Lake Wissota in the spirit of chilly fun

Haley Wright, photos by Andrea Paulseth

WINTER FEST & GAMES, 2015
WINTER FEST & GAMES, 2015

The Second Annual Winter Fest and Games on January 29 through 31 on Lake Wissota will be a chilly and unforgettable event – complete with a snowmobile parade organized to break the current record in the Guinness Book of World Records, auto and ATV racing on the ice, snowmobile drag racing, fat bike racing, a kubb tournament, open disc golf, a hot air balloon event, a 5K run to benefit the YMCA, a bonfire, and fireworks display on the ice.

Whew.

Last year was the Winter Fest and Games kickoff event, and it took place on frozen Lake Altoona.

“The festival’s inspiration and core ideas are based on helping non-profits large or small raise money for their organizations.”

“The idea for NWWFG (Northwest Wisconsin Winter Fest and Games) was modeled after an event called University of Okoboji Winter Games,” said Brian Sandy of the Leader Telegram, the event’s organizer. “We put our own spin on that event and added more activities such as ice racing.”

He is expecting around 8,000 people to come to the event, but he said “due to the current weather conditions and change of venue it is difficult to predict.” In fact, if the ice on Lake Wissota is not 16 inches deep by the time of the Winter Fest and Games, the event may have to be moved again to the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds for safety reasons.

Regardless, Sandy believes the snowmobile drag racing will be a huge draw for those who enjoy watching racing. There will be two entertainment tents as well, and the ten bands performing throughout the event will no doubt be a draw for music lovers. The event is family friendly; it includes a family skate and broomball area, and hot air balloons that will be showcased at the event.

“I think the kids will be excited to see a hot air balloon up close on the ground,” Sandy said.

New to Winter Fest this year is an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records current world record for the largest snowmobile parade, which was previously set in St. Mary’s Canada in February of this year with 847 snowmobiles participating.

Tony Kohnke, President of the Elk Lake Blizzard Breakers Snowmobile Club, said the inspiration for the snowmobile parade came to him over the past year as he followed other similar events worldwide and thought this is something we could do here.

“There are 225,000 registered snowmobiles in Wisconsin, so to ask for 848 to show up isn’t much,” Kohnke said.

He felt the event would be perfect for Winter Fest, which already had the infrastructure to support an event like this. Many other snowmobile clubs from near and far are supporting the event. If you want to register to be a part of the parade, it costs $10 and includes an official world record keepsake badge, a hat, and it can be completed online at winterfestandgames.com, or on the day of the event on Lake Wissota.

In addition to being entertaining and something fun to do on a cold weekend in the middle of a Wisconsin winter, many of the activities at Winter Fest are to benefit a local non-profit.

“Non-profit fundraising is really what makes Winter Fest and Games such a special event,” Sandy said. “The festival’s inspiration and core ideas are based on helping non-profits large or small raise money for their organizations.” Some of the current organizations include UCP, YMCA, and CORBA. 

So come out and participate in the snowmobile parade to support United Cerebral Palsy of West Central Wisconsin, run in the Cold and Bold 5K to support the YMCA, or watch fat bike racing to support Chippewa Valley Off Road Bike Association and enjoy hot chili made and served by local Boy Scouts – good fun all for good causes right here in the Chippewa Valley.

To learn more about Winter Fest and Games for the full schedule of events, check out: winterfestandgames.com.

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