Inaugural WinterFest celebration taking place in Lansing offers variety of family fun this Saturday

The Mississippi River will be providing some of the resources for the inaugural WinterFest celebration planned for this Saturday, February 21 in the Lansing area, including some ice fishing and ice that will be harvested for the planned ice carving demonstration. The arrival this past weekend and continued forecast of single-digit high temperatures and sub-zero low temperatures should further help those ice conditions, with temperatures warming up just a bit in time for Saturday's activities. Standard photo by Bob Beach.

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

When Mother Nature brings winter, Main Street Lansing creates WinterFest. The inaugural WinterFest celebration being held this Saturday, February 21 is Lansing’s answer to creating a fun family event to combat the long Iowa winter.
Organizers say the idea began last year after a very successful Chili Cook-Off competition in Lansing. Several individuals felt that an all-day event culminating in the chili cook-off would be a great way to bring families together to embrace Iowa’s winter weather.
Sue Stirn, chair of the Organization Committee of Main Street Lansing, elaborates, “We wanted an event for all ages to come together and have fun. Our committee has worked hard to provide a variety of events that will appeal to those who want to have fun outdoors or indoors.”
Registration for the WinterFest event will begin at 9 a.m. at TJ Hunter’s Banquet Hall. The admission wristband will allow people to participate in all activities, including the chili cook-off supper at the end of the day. Free hot chocolate, s’mores and hotdogs will be provided  throughout the day to wristband wearers.

After lots of searching, the committee found a professional ice carver who will demonstrate ice carving throughout the day at the Main Street Plaza. Chain Reaction Carvings from Waterloo will carve ice harvested from the Mississippi River by Jerry Boardman. In the “olden days” harvesting ice from the river was a regular event because ice was stored and used for keeping food cold in the Ice Box (the precursor to the refrigerator).
The committee felt that using harvested ice from the Mississippi was a way to bring a small part of that heritage into the celebration, but storing ice as a final product didn’t seem very exciting. Ice carving, on the other hand, could be a fascinating draw. Will they use chain saws? Propane torches? Sculpture tools? Electric knives? Come to find out. Chain Reaction Carvings will be creating up to six ice sculptures during the day.
The craft and vendor show from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at T.J. Hunter’s Banquet Hall will feature several local artisans. No admission is charged for the craft and vendor show, but adult wristband purchasers will be entered into drawings for over a dozen door prizes from the craft and vendor show. Prizes may be picked up after 2 p.m. and before 4:30 p.m.

Jon Steffes, an author based out of La Crescent, MN, will be signing autographs and presenting his books Drawing Trouble, Dirty Hand   and Wings on the Wind at TJ Hunter's Banquet Hall. His books feature teens who face difficult life choices and especially appeal to young and old alike who love the outdoors. Steffes’s  books are based on life on the Mississippi River and in Minnesota. His best-selling book, Wings on the Wind, describes the historic two-day Armistice Day blizzard of 1940 on the upper Missisippi when over 20 duck hunters lost their lives on the river due to exposure and drowning. He will give a short presentation about the book at 3 p.m.

It wouldn’t be winter in Iowa without ice fishing. The Allamakee County Conservation Board will supply ice fishing equipment from 10 a.m.-12 noon so people, especially younger, less experienced fisherfolk, can learn the ways of ice fishing. This event will take place at the Village Creek Boat Landing.
For those who love looking out from the top of Mt. Hosmer in the summer, how about a winter view? Those hiking up Mt. Hosmer will be treated to a bonfire, hotdogs and s’mores as a reward for making the trek. Trekkers will leave from TJ Hunter’s Banquet Hall at 11:45 a.m.
Meanwhile, down at the ice rink by the sports complex, from 1-3 p.m., visitors will find turkey bowling, snowshoeing and snow angels. Once again, the Allamakee County Conservation Board will supply the snowshoes for those who want to venture out. For those who can’t resist the urge to lie down in the snow to create a snow angel, participants will also get to decorate them with snow paint and colored ice cubes. Turkey bowling is just as it sounds, rolling a frozen turkey toward bowling pins.
Those who think it's too cold outside can participate in the wide variety of indoor activities taking place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Kerndt Brothers Community Center. Indoor games will include board games, ping-pong, Hot Wheels racetrack, and a craft for kids.

Those interested in ending the fun-filled day with a warm meal may want to taste a variety of chili and vote for their favorite from 4-7 p.m. at T.J. Hunter’s Banquet Hall. WinterFest participants will be admitted with their wristbands. Others may purchase a meal at the door. Those attending will sample all the chilis available and then vote on two: the best chili from a business and the best chili from an individual. The winners of the Chili Cook-Off Trophy  will be crowned after the vote counting ends at 7 p.m.
Those interested in bringing their chili for the competition may pick up a registration form from the Main Street Lansing office or  may download one off the website: visit and click on Chili Cook-Off. All registrations must be made with the MSL office by February 20. Call 563-538-9229 for more information.

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