Despite weather, winter festivals delight

  • Frosty the Snowman enjoys a performance by Flying High Dogs, of Nahant, at the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019.the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Unable to amplify their keyboard or vocals, Sunshine Brothers, Inc. keyboardist Charles Vadala, left, took up the cowbell and guitarist Jake Weissmann stuck to an instrumental set of "east coast surf sunshine pop" during the Amherst band's appearance at the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Poppy Kilmer, 7, of Amherst heads down an improvised sledding run during the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Devin Kilmer of Amherst motions to his daughter Poppy, 7, that he'll catch her tube as she continues to slide down an improvised run of snow at the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ben Weiss of Florence gets a chuckle as his daughter, Nell, 4, savors a slightly over-roasted marshmallow by the bonfire at the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Poppy Kilmer, 7, of Amherst runs through the snowmaker at the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Mike Piazza, left, of Flying High Dogs, in Nahant, tosses a frisbee for his seven-year-old border collie, Maui, during a performance at the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sunshine Brothers, Inc. guitarist Jake Weissmann, center, was joined onstage briefly by the Springfield Thunderbirds mascot, Boomer, during the Amherst band's set at the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Devin Kilmer and his daughter Regina, 5, of Amherst sled on an improvised run of snow during the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A momentary lack of focus - or perhaps artificial snow-blindness - sent Boomer, the Springfield Thunderbirds mascot, and Sophie Sharken, 5, of Amherst, veering off the narrow strip of snow laid down on the sledding hill at the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. The pair had enough momentum to continue on the grass almost as far as they would have on the snow. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Devin Kilmer and his daughter Regina, 5, of Amherst sled on an improvised run of snow during the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Above, Julia Wald and her son, Thanh Tran, 4, of Amherst get a thrill on the sledding hill during the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday. Below, Frosty the Snowman enjoys a performance by Flying High Dogs, of Nahant. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Thanh Tran, 4, of Amherst takes a solo plunge down the sledding hill at the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Julia Wald and her son, Thanh Tran, 4, of Amherst get a thrill on the sledding hill during the Amherst WinterFest grand finale held at Cherry Hill Golf Course on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 2/11/2019 12:18:58 AM

In spite of the wintry cold temperatures and scattered patches of snow, there were plenty of smiles on children’s faces throughout two winter festivals on a sunny but frigid Saturday.

In Amherst and Easthampton, there were coinciding but independent WinterFests.

In Amherst, the festival’s weeklong celebration concluded with a finale that took place at the Cherry Hill Golf Course. There were more than 35 events spread over eight days and throughout the community.

On Saturday, people were huddled around small fires, others watched a dog show with amusement, and even children that sledded on a couple of hills.

The big event, however, had to be the Classic Sled Race.

The night before the annual race, 2nd grader Chelah Schwartz and her brother, 1st grader Anika, both of Leverett, began constructing an impressive chameleon sled. The sled was declared the winner of the contest.

The sled could seat a total of six, and its eyes were made out paper mache covered soccer balls, which were cut in half, and they were painted purple, black and gray. The rest of the body was constructed using several cardboard boxes that were covered in bright, neon green paper.

“I had fun making the eyes,” Chelah said, who has competed in the past, but this year was her and her brother’s first time winning the contest.

She made sure to add an important detail to the sled.

“I wanted to put a bee at the end of the tongue because chameleons like to eat bugs,” Chelah said.

Organizers had to groom the golf course for snow and used it to create short runways of snow where sledders could ride down.

‘Don’t try this at home’

At Nashawannuck Pond, Dennis Picard and Rick Martin held an ice harvesting demonstration as part of Easthampton’s 6th annual WinterFest.

Standing around a small hole dug into the pond about 10 feet away from the shore, Picard and Martin used a variety of tools to saw, break and pull large chunks of ice out of the water.

“Don’t try this at home,” Picard said matter-of-factly. “We are professionals.”

Around 10 people gathered for the demonstration at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

With circular motions, Martin would push and pull the large saw as it cut neat lines into the frozen pond. Picard provided the historical context of this practice from the 19th century.

In the 1860s and ‘70s, “ice harvesting was the 9th largest industry in the United States,” Picard said.

In those days, Picard said, a team of ice harvesters could cover one to three acres a day, which could yield 280,000 tons a year. Well preserved in an ice house, a block of ice could last five to seven years.

“It provided work for farmers, railroad workers, and some mill workers with work during the winter time,” Picard said.

Since ice harvesting began in 1805, it changed the diet of many Americans, Martin said.

“It changed from salt and smoked meats to having fruits, vegetables and meat available,” Martin said. “You could have fresh food all year long.”

Events throughout the day were sponsored by local businesses and non-profits.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com




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