Winterfest 2014

On January 11th, the Adirondack Mountain Club held its first annual ADK Winterfest at its Heart Lake Program Center in conjunction with Winter Trails Day, a national event designed to promote winter outdoor recreation organized by SnowSports Industries America. ADK Winterfest grew from an idea by dedicated Volunteer Summit Steward Ian Ellbogen, who came to ADK staff this past fall proposing a fundraiser during the winter season to support the many mission based programs ADK undertakes in the summer. Since ADK already hosts events for National Trails Day in June, and Fall Trails Day in October, setting up an event around Winter Trails Day seemed like a good fit.

Planning then began in earnest as we were just a few months away from a brand new event. Ian took on the task of finding sponsors and coordinated efforts with the ADK Membership and Development department. Almost every member of the ADK North Country staff jumped on board in some capacity and duties were delegated from marketing to logistics to parking to recruiting volunteers. The team met every couple of weeks and the event began to take shape. A slate of activities that included cross country and telemark skiing, snowshoeing and backcountry hikes, ice skating and curling on Heart Lake, a kid’s fun zone and family scavenger hunt, and ski waxing and orienteering clinics was developed. Plans for food and beverage, warming areas, a buffet dinner, and live music all came together.

A great group of outdoor gear vendors were lined up to demo their products, provide expert advice, and generously donated items to be raffled off. Financial support from local businesses, like minded non-profits, and ADK Chapters came pouring in. A large event tent, rental equipment, signs and banners, and even the porta-potties were all procured. For the full week leading up to Winterfest, ADK staff and volunteers moved snow, cleared the ice on Heart Lake using an ingenious homemade device nicknamed the “Manboni”, and built a world class snow obstacle course for the kid’s zone. Property maps and event programs were printed, volunteer shifts scheduled, and registration and parking logistics fine tuned. The day before Winterfest was Adirondack bluebird perfect, the ice like glass, the trails ready, and anticipation high.

Saturday, January 11th dawned with temperatures in the mid-forties, warm winds gusting to 30 mph, and to top it off, incessant sheets of sideways rain washing over the landscape. The snow that once was now showed itself as a soggy green-brown mixture of ice, mud, and grass. Winterfest was ruined!

Annie in the Water
Annie in the Water

Or was it? As ADK staff and over thirty hearty volunteers showed up still smiling, as intrepid vendors and non-profit partners rolled in and set up their displays in driving rain, as local families arrived undeterred in their quest for fun, a pervasive yet determinedly positive feeling of “Hey, we’re all in it together, a little rain won’t bother us, we are ADKers!” took hold. Although some outdoor activities were cancelled, people continued to show up throughout the day to check out the scene. The event tent was a hub of activity, with vendor tables visited, food and beverage sampled, and a lively raffle keeping everyone engaged. As day turned to evening, a fabulous buffet dinner was served and a good crowd stuck around to enjoy the music of the highly entertaining band Annie in the Water. When all was said and done, nearly two hundred people turned out for a first time event in the worst possible conditions. And all had fun!

This is my fifteenth year with ADK. Whenever anyone asks any ADK staff member what the best part of working for ADK is, the consistent answer you hear is, “It’s the people.” “The people” includes other ADK staff, our endlessly dedicated volunteers, and really, the entirety of the outdoor recreation community. There is a special bond between people who have connected with the outdoors, an appreciation that we humans are not the center of all things; that it is bigger than just us. I have never been prouder to be part of that wonderful community than I was this past Saturday.

Thanks to all who participated, sponsored, helped, volunteered, and braved the rain to make the first ADK Winterfest an unqualified success despite Mother Nature’s somewhat diabolical plan to test us.

Final score: ADK – 1, Rain – 0. See you next year at ADK Winterfest 2015!

Thank you to all our partners and sponsors who helped us make this event possible.

Annie in the Water photo courtesy of Brendan Wiltse