Easthampton’s WinterFest going ‘big’ with 10-day run of events

  • A scene from Easthampton’s WinterFest in 2022.  GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/SABATO VISCONTI

  • Brothers Keith and Mark Ouellette, left and right, of Mainely Drafts, in Ludlow, take a dozen people for a wagon ride past Nashawannuck Pond with their team of Belgians, Mark, left, and Harry, during Easthampton’s seventh annual WinterFest on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/24/2023 7:24:19 PM

EASTHAMPTON — An advisory committee is pulling out all the stops with 35 events to get people out and about to celebrate this year’s WinterFest.

Now in its 10th year, the Nashawannuck Pond Steering Committee is adding nine days of in-person events to its typical one-day WinterFest celebration that culminates with a Deca-Dance Gala.

“This being the 10th annual WinterFest, we wanted to celebrate and go big!” said Beth Tiffany, a member of the steering committee.

The gala will take place at the East Boylston Room at the Keystone Mill building on Saturday, Feb. 11, from 6 to 10 p.m. and feature hors d’oeuvres from Myer’s Catering and a cash bar. Entertainment will be provided by Johnny & the Flashbacks, who are known for playing dance tunes from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Tickets are $40 per person and available for purchase online at nashawannuckpong.org/winterfest, where there is also a full schedule of events.

While “gala” style events often invoke images of elaborately decadent and fancy affairs, Tiffany said that there is no dress code.

“It’s about having a good time and raising money to take care of the pond,” she said.

The committee kicked off several competitions online this month that are designed to engage the community and generate excitement for the 10th-year celebration. The activities include an Easthampton trivia contest, a snowflake-making contest, and a photo contest.

The celebration heats up with the first in-person event on Saturday, Feb. 2 with the return of the chili cook-off. This year, the competition will be hosted by Big Bear Used Books & Cafe in the Keystone Mill building, starting at 6 p.m. As part of the cook-off, residents can vote for their favorite chili submitted by local restaurants for $5 a ballot.

Other events include The One Man Party hosting a trivia night at New City Brewery at the Paragon Arts & Industry Building on Feb. 6 at 6 pm., a game night at Prodigy Mini Golf & Gameroom at Eastworks Mill building on Feb. 7 at 6 p.m., and bingo at Abandoned Building Brewery at The Brickyard on Feb. 9 at 6 p.m.

On Saturday, Feb. 11, Tiffany said the city can look forward to a day of festivities, including an artisan, craft and vendor fair, a community fire, a martial arts/self-defense demonstration, entertainment from magician and balloon twister Ed Popielarczyk, salsa lessons with Emily Foxtrot, free movie showings of Ice Age 1 and 2, and a free screening of Nashawannuck Pond: The Documentary.

In keeping with the event’s origin, the committee has planned activities that pay homage to the elements, including a demonstration of ice harvesting and exhibition of antique hand tools with historian Dennis Picard starting at noon on Feb. 11.

Starting at 11 a.m., longtime ice sculptor Michael Rondeau of Palmer will transform a block of ice into an ice bar/luge and tabletops on the patio outside of the Boylston Rooms at the Keystone Mill building. While there is no charge to view Rondeau’s handiwork, once the ice bar is completed, the area will become a venue for a ticketed event.

The ice bar will host two seatings for patrons over the age of 21: one at 3:15 p.m. and one at 4:15 p.m. Tickets are $15 and include a choice of either signature drinks, cranberry bramble or Jack Frost. A cash bar also will be available. Tickets to the gala also include admission to the ice bar.

WinterFest was started by former steering committee member Elizabeth Provo, who got the idea after the committee hosted its first ice-cutting demonstration at the pond. Provo, who has since moved out of Easthampton, also created the Nashawannuck Pond website and Facebook page.

The event is the committee’s largest fundraiser and serves as an opportunity to bring public awareness about ongoing efforts needed to keep Nashawannuck Pond healthy for generations to come. Tiffany said the committee is hoping the event will raise about $10,000.

Proceeds from the event will go toward funding projects such as the onion bags of barley straw experiment, which has proven effective in minimizing algae growth in general and cyanobacteria. Toxic cyanobacteria blooms can cause chronic and acute health hazards to plants, animals and people.

Other projects that have received funding include the Broad Brook and White Brook siltation projects. The committee put forward $40,000 toward the $300,000 project, which involved the removal of sediment collected by the Gabion Weir, located just inside Nonotuck Park and the siltation basin located at the end of the pond bordering Nonotuck Park and fed by Broad Brook.

“Nashawannuck Pond is a jewel in Easthampton — there’s ice fishing and ice skating in the winter, a fishing derby and boating in the summer, and a beautiful boardwalk that’s been built around it. It’s a community resource that people love,” said committee member Amy Marsters. “It’s our responsibility to maintain it.”

“WinterFest is a great excuse to come out and support the pond with family-friendly activities in locations throughout our community … and with a gala event, it’s sure to be a great celebration,” Marsters said.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
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