Loads of Residents Brave the Chill for the Litchfield WinterFest

February 19, 2016


submitted by Keith Buxton, Litchfield Recreation

Frigid temperatures and gusty winds couldn’t keep more than 500 Litchfield residents from coming out to enjoy the day at the 4th annual Litchfield WinterFest last weekend.  Many events were moved to Saturday to avoid the record-low temperatures on Sunday and the, always popular, Seal Cove Dog Sled teams were not able to give rides this year due to the snow conditions.  Despite the challenging conditions, the committed team of volunteers found a way to pull off a successful weekend of fun for the community.

Friday night Wildlife Encounters and DJ Tim Otis returned to Talent Hall for the Kid’s Night Out.  New this year, parents were able to enjoy a great meal with their friends and neighbors at Naticook Fish & Grill (re-opening next month as Funway Burgers & Shakes).  A special thank you to Naticook’s owner, Marco Salerno, for offering to open the restaurant and kitchen for the night and donating 100 percent of the proceeds back to the community event.  Approximately 80 people attended the dinner for a delicious three-course meal, drinks and laughter.  This is sure to be a hit at future WinterFests.

A chilly Saturday morning found dedicated runners, of all ages, lacing up for the WinterFest 5K and Kid’s Fun Run.  Congratulations to Liam Chapman for his first-place finish in three categories:  overall finisher/overall male/8-13 male.  The other winners were as follows:  overall female:  Katie Chapman; 8-13 female:  Abby Buxton; 30-39 female:  Stephanie Ceccherini; 40-49 female:  Katie Chapman; 50-plus female:  Debra Munsell; 30-39 male:  Peter Ames; 40-49 male:  Devin Chapman; and 50-plus male:  John McKenna.  The Kid’s Fun Run had four finishers:  Julia Berry, Katiana Berry, Alina Berry and Elijah Berry.

As a replacement for the dog sleds, a new activity was added this year.  Snowzilla Jr., a 30-foot-high, 90-foot-long outdoor slide was popular with the kids, although gusty winds kept it closed for a portion of the day.  Kids also enjoyed the human bubble bowling, bounce house, obstacle course, clowns, face painting, skating, archery, ropes course and wacky trikes.  The favorite activity of the kids was the mini snowmobile rides.  Dozens of kids were able to test their riding skills on the oval tracks for about 6 hours while parents watched from the nearby, and extremely popular, bon-fire.  Max from the Manchester Monarchs stopped by to help out with the Kid’s Slapshot Shootout and the Responders Residents Hockey Game.

The chili cook-off went well with winners as follows:  Keith Buxton in first, Josh Lane in second, and Alex Matucci in third, and people’s choice Jay Smith swept the chowder contest as the only entry.  A successful raffle and sports memorabilia auction helped to fund the community event.  The Litchfield Lion’s Club was also on hand to serve hot food to those who were hungry and cold.

The cornhole tournament in Talent Hall Saturday evening had 48 players and several spectators.  After 64 competitive games the winners were announced:  Rick Landry and Keith Buxton in first, Brian Fletcher and Lance Madden in second, and Kelly Asara and Larry Pigeon in third.  Shon Haley won the airmail competition.

After a very busy day on Saturday, approximately 80 people returned Sunday morning for a pancake breakfast at Talent Hall.  The delicious breakfast helps to fund WinterFest and keeps costs low for attendees, with many free activities being offered each year.

None of this would be possible without the amazing dedication of the WinterFest Committee and the numerous volunteers who help out over the weekend.  Thank you to each of the following committee members for their months of preparation and planning: Colleen Gamache, Cheryl Willnus, Heather Buxton, Jeremy Bruner, Duane Dionne, Paul Biron, Laura Corbett, Suzy Smith, Jason Jozokos, Dave Farnham, Chris Asara, and Ryan Grant.  There are too many other volunteers to list by name, but without them this event would not take place each year.  Also, thank you to the local organizations and businesses who generously contribute with sponsorships and donations.

Can’t wait to do it again next year (with slightly warmer weather)!