Thursday, January 17, 2013

Break up the Winter With a Festival!

We've all suffered from a little winter depression.  January and February leave some people where they live completely in the dark.  What can you do?  You can go to the Caribbean on a cruise for a while, but inevitably you have to go home sometime.  I too, live in the northern regions, where the sun comes up late and sets early.  Every day is a crap shoot as to whether or not you can get out of the driveway to go to work.  Depression is unproductive, I say, and apparently so do millions of other around the world.
Their solution to winter blues?  Have a festival!

This one is up the road from me in St. Albans, VT.  It's still quite cold in April in Vermont, but that's when the sap runs sweet and the maple syrup is plentiful.  You can sample many different varieties of the sweet stuff. They have contests for the best syrup, they have a festival, they have a whole weekend of fiddle music.  It's a lot of fun.
Now, if you don't want to wait until April for your cheering up in Vermont, you can always take a weekend and head to the Trapp Family Lodge.  That's right, the same Trapp family that inspired the Sound of Music.
The lodge looks like it belongs in the Alps.  It's not far from Stowe, where the skiing is fine.  They have yoga classes, indoor swimming, and their own microbrewery, just for starters.  You can also learn how to make maple syrup, go for a sleigh ride, go cross country skiing, or just relax and go to one of the several restaurants.  It's relaxing, beautiful, and makes you not feel so bad about it being winter outside.

If relaxing is not what you think will make you happy during the winter months, then come to Alaska, and the World Ice Sculpting Championships in Fairbanks.  This is winter art at it's absolute finest.  It goes on for a few weeks, starting the last week in February.  Sculptors come from all over the world to enter this contest.  They have a festival in Mid March to celebrate the sculptures.  They light them up for display and have many activities to make it a great time.

 Need a little more adrenaline?  Come out to Aspen for the X Games.  This event hits Aspen, Colorado in mid January and runs for a little over two weeks.  This is where you'll see the world's top winter athletes competing in some of the most exciting sports.  Sean White has competed in the half pipe here, and many others.  So, pack up your parka and come out for all the fun.

Then there's my favorite tiny town of Greenville, Maine.  I mentioned in an earlier entry that there was once a plane crash there.  A B52 Bomber crashed there decades ago and the wreckage is still of much interest to visitors.  The crash happened in the dead of winter, which in Maine in the hills is really the dead of winter.  Every year, the locals put on their Bunny Boots and have a memorial snow machine ride up to the site of the wreck to remember those who didn't make it.  Now, being that these are hearty Mainers, they also have some relief from the weather in the area throughout the winter.  They have an ice fishing derby in late January, they have the 100 mile and 30 mile Wilderness Sled Dog Race for avid snow machiners,  and they have a chocolate festival in mid February.  If that's not enough interest for you, just stop by on Sunday afternoons and watch the car races on the lake.
As far as other activities go for those who want to fight winter on it's own turf, there is a winter festival in Banff, Canada that has all the usual suspects, plus a fair dose of northern lights.  That's a little something to top off the ice sculptures, snowshoeing, skiing, and snow machining.
Harbin, China touts itself to have the biggest snow and ice festival in the world, and runs through the entire month of January.
Brainard, Minnesota holds the world's largest charitable ice fishing competition in mid January, thousands of fishermen hit the ice for this one.  The best catch here is that there's a prize for 23rd place.

And then there's Quebec City in Quebec, Canada.  These guys I'm pretty sure have the biggest blow out of all.  They have it all.  They have parades, they have extreme sports, they have canoe races in the St. Lawrence Seaway, they have life size table soccer games,  they have dances, balls, and everything that you can imagine.

They even have a mascot called Bonhomme.  It's the biggest blow out for winter fun that I know of, and it's in one of the coldest cities that I know of.
The people of Quebec City and the thousands of people who come from all over the world don't care how cold it is.  They cut loose and stand strong against the cold and dark.  So, maybe the answer to what to do with all that darkness is to have a couple of parades and race home made sleds down an ice run in the middle of town.  Could be, I don't know.
So, if you find yourself feeling a little down about winter, look around and find a way to enjoy it.  Spring will come all too soon, and the craziness of winter fun will go away until next year.


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