Every February since 2007, City Bay in North Hero has become a winter playground to boost off-season tourism as part of the Great Ice! Festival. The event lit up the chilly Friday night in two different ways, but unfortunately for such a cold evening, only one of those methods involved generating any heat.
The 14th annual event couldn’t have started on a better note. A bonfire of leftover Christmas trees may have burned strongly enough to help keep the several hundred festival guests warm.
“You’ve got to stay outside,” Joe Steffen of Grand Isle said. “You’ve got to keep yourself active and have fun, even though it’s colder than…”
His wife, Sue Steffen, interjected, “Don’t say it!” Joe continued by saying, “…you-know-what!”
“It’s a great sense of community to gather people when it’s so cold and people are just tied up in their homes,” Sue Steffen said. “It’s so nice to see so many people here in this kind of weather.”
Following the bonfire, a massive fireworks show over the bay helped start the festival weekend with a bang. “Even though it’s freezing out tonight, it’s still great to be outside and see how much fun everyone is having out here,” Dan DiMille of Essex Junction said. “They really do a fantastic job putting this whole thing together.”
Some of this weekend’s events have an entry fee or an admission fee; those include a pancake breakfast and a chili cook-off. The free entertainment includes open skating and pickup games of pond hockey. “We’re going to come back up here with ice skates at some point, either Saturday or Sunday, and we have family coming up from Massachusetts, actually, that we’re going to bring up here, too,” DiMille said.
However, there is one notable change to the schedule this year. Thin ice conditions have canceled Sunday’s scheduled Over N’ Back Trek, which is a hike across the bay.