Sullivan County event brings out cold weather fans

FORKSVILLE – If it could be done in the snow, it was something people could do at Sullivan County’s Winterfest.

The annual daylong celebration of cold and ice, held on Presidents’ Day weekend, is the main fundraiser for the county’s Kiwanis Club.

Hundreds came to Camp Brule on a clear and plenty cold day last weekend to fish, ski, sled, sculpt or take a dip in Elk Lake.

The Winterfest Polar Bear Plunge had 36 people take the dive, and plunger Maciah Fitzgerald, of Mildred, won the big prize, a Polaris all-terrain vehicle donated by Robin Real Estate, of Eagles Mere.

In the process, Fitzgerald raised $817 in donations to the Kiwanis Club from area businesses.

Polar plungers had to raise at least $100 to jump and earned one ticket in the prize raffle for every $500 they raised.

Ice sculptors chipped away throughout the day, then their ephemeral creations were auctioned off for charity.

“We had a 300-pound chunk of ice that takes 72 hours to make,” said ice maker and sculptor Bob Salaki, of Williamsport. “These are sculptures that people pay $250 or $300 for if they want them for a wedding.”

“This is about all the ice I sculpt all year,” said Drew Ditzki, of Colley, who usually sculpts in wood. “If I had access to ice I’d do more – it’s a lot easier than wood, and a lot cleaner, too.”

Out on the ice, Nellie Pennella pushed the concession sled around to the fisherpeople.

“I went around three times,” she said. “It took me a long time the first time around, in the morning – everyone wanted some breakfast.”

The fishing was only so-so for Winterfest this year.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever been here for Winterfest,” said Carl Klopp, of Eagles Mere. “We didn’t get many bites, but out here there are no bad days.”

“We come up here every year, but they weren’t biting too good today,” said Ed Fedrow, of Dallas. “Just got one little pickerel big enough to keep.”

Brendan McCandless and Caitlyn Triolla, of Doylestown, were visiting their grandparents and took an improvised shanty – an E-Z Up wrapped in plastic tarp – onto the ice.

“It’s working pretty well,” McCandless said. “The tent flexed a little bit, but we’re warm in here.”

Inside, vendors of snack foods, scarves, honey, artwork, and more showed their wares all day, along with live music, and all three meals were served to the hungry.

Outside, other attractions were horse-drawn wagon rides, sled dog races, human “sled dog” races, cross-country skiing and pond ice skating.

“We wanted to come out and see what people do here,” said Gerard Dinares, one of a group of four Manhattanites who were spending the weekend in Laporte. “We wanted to be in the human dog sled … and it is cold.”