Wolf Lake to celebrate Winter Fest Feb. 19
WOLF LAKE -- It was one day between five and six years ago that John Aho, his wife and their youngest son were sitting around their kitchen table, when they started talking about finding a way to "overtake the winter doldrums," as Aho put it.
"The (Wolf Lake) Lions have a nice recreation area, with a hill for sliding and a warming house, so we thought, why not have something that centers around that?" he said.
And so the idea for what has become one of Wolf Lake's most popular annual traditions was born.
"Although the concept of Winter Fest was 'born' at our kitchen table, it was a combination of numerous ideas from the Winter Fest Committee members and numerous community service organizations that made it happen," Aho pointed out.
Now gearing up for its fifth annual run, the Wolf Lake Winter Fest will take place Saturday, Feb. 19. In years past, the celebration has drawn upwards of 200 people -- sometimes from as far away as Canada and California.
"An exchange student from Ecuador came one year -- that made it an international event," Aho said with a smile.
So what has made the celebration such a popular tradition among winter enthusiasts? Undoubtedly, it's the array of unusual events on the schedule.
First, there's the homemade sled races, where prizes are given for the "most unique" sleds as well as for the fastest ones. To prevent the possibility of collisions, sleds are sent down the hill one at a time, with the goal of being the fastest to reach the bottom.
"It's a race against the clock," Aho explained.
A homemade snowshoe race has also been added to the schedule this year; prizes for the "most unique" snowshoes will be given as well, he said.
"We also have snow bowling," Aho continued. "We put up traffic cones at the base of the hill, then participants come down the hill on inner tubes and try to hit them."
The human sled dog race is another unique event, he said. "It's called 'Four Mutts and a Musher."
A team of four people -- the "Mutts" -- is harnessed to a sled with a "Musher" riding along, supposedly to guide the team along the race course.
Snow sculpture and snowman building contests are also planned for "kids from one to 100," Aho added.
"We have some grandpas and grandmas who are really into it (making snowmen)," he joked.
And the snow sculpting contest has also drawn some "really talented people" each year, Aho said. "We've had some very nice sculptures since we started."
Of course, all of these snow-oriented events are planned on the premise that there will be enough of the fluffy white stuff on the ground to make it worthwhile.
"We had no snow one year, so we went out and bought a bunch of water pails, then had people throw tennis balls into them for prizes," Aho said. "The kids enjoyed it, so now we do that every year as well."
Other non-snow based events include the treasure hunting for kids, and the arts and crafts show at the Lions Hall.
The younger kids can hunt through straw piles for their treasure, while the older ones are sent out on a trail hunt, where numbered sheets of paper (encased in plastic bags) are hidden along the walking trail. Each number corresponds to a treasure that awaits its finder at the end of the trail, Aho said.
All of these events take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Besides the craft show, the Lions Hall will also host a Chili & Mojaka Feed from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"Mojaka is a Finnish beef stew," said Aho, noting that its inclusion on the menu is in deference to the community's Finnish roots.
"The liquor store has a Finnish Five Card Tournament from 2 to 6 p.m., and a dance from 6 to 11 p.m.," he added.
There will also be health screenings offered from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lions Hall. Blood pressure checks, diabetes testing and basic eye exams are included in the screening, Aho noted.
Of course, the celebration wouldn't be possible without the "generous sponsors for our cash prizes," he said.
There have been approximately $400 in toys and other treasures donated for the kids' events, while the cash prizes for the other events range between $25 and $100.