Community out for Easthampton’s WinterFest

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  • Taj Bressem, 9, of Southwick adds a second layer of frosting to his creation during a morning of cupcake decorating at Emily Williston Memorial Library for Easthampton's seventh annual WinterFest on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton High School junior Janie Marek, left, and Lillian Facteau, 9, make pancakes for a pancake breakfast at Trinity Lutheran Church that kicked off Easthampton’s seventh annual WinterFest on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The cooks at Trinity Lutheran Church’s pancake breakfast fashioned whimsical designs. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Siblings Logan, left, and Yasemin Averill-Cilam, 7 and 5, of Easthampton enjoy chocolate chip pancakes during the pancake breakfast at Trinity Lutheran Church to kick off Easthampton's seventh annual WinterFest on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Friends Kataliya Rivera, left, of Holyoke and Roise Boyd, right, of Easthampton, both 7, pose with Anna from "Frozen", played by Meghan Kalbaugh of Chicopee, during a craft and vendor fair at the Keystone Mill that was part of Easthampton's seventh annual WinterFest on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • 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 WinterFest. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hazel Kelley-Bagg, 5½, of Easthampton enjoys the cupcake she decorated at Emily Williston Memorial Library during Easthampton’s WinterFest. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Siblings Matilda and Soren Pandina, 8 and 5, of Westborough turn a crank to create a jump rope in the Hartsbrook School booth at the Keystone Mill during Easthampton's seventh annual WinterFest on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. The two were in town visiting their grandmother Paula Stratton of Easthampton. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 2/10/2020 12:06:04 AM

EASTHAMPTON — WinterFest kept the city buzzing with energy all day Saturday, as residents and visitors alike participated in a seemingly endless list of activities that included everything from public art to a chili cook-off.

Community members turned out at more than 30 programs spread across 11 venues in the city — most of which were free of charge. WinterFest, now in its seventh year, is organized by the Nashawannuck Pond Steering Committee and is meant to raise awareness and donations for the group’s work in preserving the city’s iconic body of water.

In the basement of the Trinity Lutheran Church early in the morning, volunteers cooked up different types of pancakes for children and their families. Yasemin Averill-Cilam, 5, and Logan Averill-Cilam, 7, sat at a plastic table, excited beyond belief that workers had made them special-ordered pancakes resembling Mickey Mouse — which they made sure to eat first before their standard, circular breakfast.

“When parents are both working, you have limited time outside of work to interact with your neighbors and your community,” said Görkem Cilam of Easthampton, Yasemin and Logan’s mother. “So on the weekends, for us, when there are these special events, I take it as an opportunity to meet some people and for them to … care about where we live and make it better.”

David Reyor of Southampton said he and his family fish at Nashawannuck Pond during the summer and wanted to support the pond. Visitors could make donations in support of the pond at each of the WinterFest events.

“Maybe you can see someone you haven’t seen in a while, meet up with people,” Reyor said after eating a blueberry pancake and bacon breakfast. “Or to fill your stomach.”

At tables in the children’s section of the Emily Williston Memorial Library, kids and their parents decorated their own pre-made cupcakes with different colored frosting and a variety of chocolates and candy.

“I love eating cupcakes,” said 9-year-old Taj Bressem, before he rattled off all of the toppings on his dessert. “Candy corn, Hershey’s Kisses, gummy bears, Sour Patch Kids, chocolate chips ...” he said, trailing off with his hands covered with blue frosting.

“It’s a nice atmosphere,” Taj’s father, Andrew Bressem of Southwick said of WinterFest. “It gets people out and socializing … to see what’s in the community.”

Right next to them, Owen Tilbe, 5, and his mother, Vicky Tilbe, neatly spread frosting over the top of their chocolate cupcakes with plastic knives.

“He thought it would be a fun indoor activity on a cold day,” said Vicky Tilbe of Easthampton.

Down the street at Easthampton High School, people began to slowly trickle in to rate four anonymous types of chili for WinterFest’s annual cook-off. Ballots cost $5 and the chilis were rated on a point scale based on factors such as taste, consistency and color.

Carol and Ron Talbot of Whately called up Rick and Karen Yarra of Easthampton to join them for the day since the Yarras had never made it to a WinterFest. The Talbots went to the chili cook-off last year, but said this year’s food was just as tasty.

Still, to Carol Talbot, the real point of WinterFest was community — and Nashawannuck Pond. “The pond is a huge resource for Easthampton, with the new boardwalk there bringing everyone in,” she said.

Also at the cook-off was Nashawannuck Pond Steering Committee member Elaine Wood, who explained that while most of the events were free, money for the pond and the event was raised by sponsors, vendors renting space and cook-off ballot sheets.

Later in the day, Beckie Kravetz, a sculpture artist from Cummington, helped people craft their own self-portraits in the Eastworks building to be placed on her community art exhibition called “Unique/United.” On a back wall in her gallery space, over a dozen painted faces hung in careful rows next to each other.

“It’s about diversity and community. So I’m just inviting anyone who wants to, to come in and create a self-portrait,” Kravetz said. “Each unique part becomes part of the united whole.”

She said she had reached out to WinterFest organizers, who agreed she could organize a workshop during the day.

“I love what’s happening with arts here. It’s an incredibly vibrant arts community,” she said. “By having public art, I can share it with everybody.”

Michael Connors can be reached at

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