MORRISONVILLE — The first Winterfest here seven years ago brought in $350; last year, it raised $8,000 to help veterans in need.
The inaugural event put on by American Legion Post 1619 saw maybe a few hundred people turn out for winter fun at the post home on Rand Hill Road.
“Last year, there were maybe 2,500 there just for the fireworks,” Commander Mike Rock said.
The 2014 event starts Friday and goes through Sunday.
‘ALL ABOUT VETS’
Organizers are delighted with the growth of Winterfest, which benefits the Veterans Assistance Fund, distributed by Clinton County Veterans Service Agency.
“It’s all about the veterans,” said Mike’s wife, Irene.
There’s no doubt about that as Stephen Deso carves this year’s enormous ice sculpture on the post grounds. The design marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain around Crab Island on Sept. 11, 1814.
Last year, it put the spotlight on Korean War veterans; the first one created for Winterfest recalled the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.
“We did Vietnam one year,” said Mrs. Rock, who is secretary/treasurer for Winterfest and 1619 Auxiliary president.
FIREWORKS, $1 MENU
Winterfest is back this year with many its signature offerings, including open skating, nightly bonfire and sliding with rope tow (provided by Henry’s Pools & Spas) to take sliders back up the hill.
The Dollar Menu, with hamburgers, hot dogs, soda, water and other Winterfest fare, will also offer french fries by David and Kevin Lyons for the first time.
“They have their own french-fry secret recipe,” Mrs. Rock said. “We tried them, and they are very good.”
Two years ago, Sam’s Club in Plattsburgh began donating much of the food for the Dollar Menu, she added, “so every dollar we make goes to the veterans because of Sam’s.”
Fireworks, set off by licensed pyrotechnician Dr. Joe Clauss, are set for Friday night.
“He really likes blowing stuff up,” the commander said, laughing.
Pyrotechnics in winter can’t be beat, he added.
“Those fireworks at night in the cold, they’re 10 times better than in the summer,” he said.
“One year, in very light snowfall, it was really unreal.”
Winterfest organizers added a curling tournament the second year after the sport got a boost in notoriety in the Winter Olympics.
Even a used set of curling stones costs as much as $3,600, they found, so they made their own, pouring cement into plastic milk jugs and adding rebar for reinforcement.
“They were hysterical,” laughed Mrs. Rock. “Now we use them as weights for the tarps on the softball field in the summertime.”
Now the post owns two sets of eight 40-pound stones each. Donors gave $250 each to have the names of loved ones — including veterans — engraved on the stones by Plattsburgh Memorials, which did the work at no charge.
At least 40 teams will compete in this year’s tourney, vying for the foam hats shaped like curling stones that go to the winners, along with their name on a trophy.
“They’re very competitive for those (hats),” Mrs. Rock said.
“This is called ‘redneck curling,’” Commander Rock said, with the same basic rules but the ice isn’t to scale.
“It’s just pond ice, so you really got to throw (the stones).”
That first year, when the event cleared only $350, did not leave Winterfest organizers discouraged, Mrs. Rock said, “because it was so much fun.”
And volunteers turned out in droves, along with with the excitement sustained from year to year, and more and more businesses donating goods and services.
What’s their secret to recruiting help in a time when many organizations struggle?
“We make it fun; don’t make it a chore — anything we do at our legion,” Mrs. Rock said.
For Winterfest, she added, “it’s 75, 100 volunteers working together, not just one person.”
And even the weather does its share — not too warm, not too stormy.
“We’ve been really very, very lucky every year.”
Email Suzanne Moore:email@example.com
American Legion Post 1619 hosts Winterfest at 219 Rand Hill Road, Morrisonville. Starting Friday afternoon are offerings that continue through the weekend, including a bonfire, open skating, sliding, Dollar Menu eats, free hot chocolate and coffee, and visits from Ice Chip the Chipmunk. Everything is free unless otherwise noted.
Here's the rest of the schedule:
4 to 7 p.m., chicken and biscuit dinner, $7;
7:30 p.m., opening ceremony with 40/8 color guard, guest speakers and lighting of the Crab Island-themed ice sculpture; 6 p.m., Budweiser Caribou Cup broom ball tournament;
8 p.m., fireworks.
8 a.m., curling competition instructions;
9 a.m., Labatt Blue curling competition;
10 a.m., Bud Light Snow Pitch Frostball Tournament; open skating and sliding on the hill;
11 a.m., Caribou Lounge (beer and drinks are regular prices);
noon to 3 p.m., horse and wagon rides by Country Dream Farms.
10 a.m., Bud Light Snow Pitch Frostball Tournament semi-finals;
curling finals and presentation of awards, raffle drawings at 2 p.m.