MIDDLEBURY — Students may now dry their eyes because although chili fest will be missed, it is being replaced by a new event called WinterFest. WinterFest will be held on Feb. 24 at the Middlebury Recreation Park (located near the Mary Hogan School). WinterFest is set to be packed with events and activities from 12 pm to 6 pm ranging from building snowmen, face painting, ice gem digging, and tug of war. The event will also feature a mini sledding hill, snow sculptures, a bonfire, fat bike demos, and many wintery treats.
Admission is $5 a person (5 year olds and under are free), and the proceeds will go towards fundraising for the Better Middlebury Partnership. The Better Middlebury Partnership is a civic organization dedicated to bettering Middlebury through events throughout the year that center on community building. Many of these events are free. Event Director Karen Duguay said that the goal of WinterFest is to bring together the Middlebury community to enjoy the town during the colder months.
Ms. Duguay hopes that WinterFest will have a positive effect on Middlebury by giving residents and students “another reason to love where you live and feel connected to your community.” She also noted the benefit of including local organizations and businesses in WinterFest, and hopes that it will strengthen the connection between businesses and their customers in addition to the businesses themselves. The funds generated from WinterFest will also have a positive long term impact on future Better Middlebury Partnership events. Ms. Duguay hinted at a free outdoor movie series, a free outdoor concert series, promotions for dining and shopping locally, Halloween events and Christmas events among those being considered. Each of these events will continue to help build Middlebury’s community.
The Chili Festival was a beloved tradition, and many students are disappointed that it will not return. Sandra Luo ’18 recalled that the event was a highlight of their time at Middebury. “We all enjoyed the different kinds of chilis that people made. My favorite part about the event was that my friends and I kept track of how many cups of chili we had in order to compare who ate the most when we were all done,” she said.
Anthony Salas ’20 recounted that he did not even attend Chili Fest. “I’m not that crazy about chili and I don’t think standing in the freezing cold for hours would be worth it,” he said. With more various activities and events, WinterFest may have a broader appeal to Middlebury students.
This is the inaugural year for Middlebury’s WinterFest, and event planners hope that over the coming years it will grow from a single afternoon affair into a multi-day event offering even more diverse activities.
The activities by day spill into a pub crawl that lasts into the evening. Local businesses like The Marquis and American Flatbread will offer a variety of snacks and drinks meant to warm the event goers after a day of outdoor activities.
As WinterFest begins to develop, Ms. Duguay hopes that Middlebury students will participate in not only this event, but also those in the future. Middlebury College students are a substantial part of the community and WinterFest is a great opportunity for student engagement. She also expressed interest in hearing students ideas for the future of WinterFest, and is flexible to the desires and aspirations of the college community. The Better Middlebury Partnership has planning spots available for WinterFest and Ms. Duguay extended an invitation to Middlebury students to fill them in the future. Volunteer positions are available this year to students, and the sign up can be found online at (http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0d4cadad28a4fc1-middlebury).
With exciting events, good music, and fun activities, Winter Fest is a great opportunity to appreciate winter together as a community. Attendees can look forward to snow painting, lawn games, and relay races to be followed by free hot cocoa, cookies, and s’mores. More information and the official flyer for WinterFest can be found on the Better Middlebury Partnership website.