By Rick Coates
Local organizers are hoping the whole town will say Wow! when they check out this weekends wide-ranging festival which will include a new winefest, snowboard competition, ice sculptures and much more.
Five years ago, the National Cherry Festival and the Grand Traverse Casino Resort and Spa formed a partnership to bring back a winter festival to Traverse City. Originally called The Cherry Winter Wonder Fest, it is now the Cherry Capital Winter Wow!Fest.
Taking place at several locations around TC, the festival kicks off Friday evening with the new Winter, Wine & Wow! event that will feature local wines, craft brews, spirits, food and art, along with live entertainment. This opening night party will take place in a large heated tent in the parking lot where the Traverse City Farmers Market is held at the corner of Union Street and the Parkway. The Festival will continue through Sunday with several outdoor activities for kids of all ages.
We are excited about how this event has involved, said Brad Van Domellen, president of the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau. Several organizations and businesses have come together to plan and promote this, there is no board. everyone has their own events and responsibilities. This and all the other events happening are great for Traverse City. As I travel the state people are telling me how amazed they are that Traverse City continues to have so many events year round.
When asked if he felt maybe there were too many events going on Van Dommelen responded:
No, we are very fortunate to be offering several options, something that other tourist destinations wish they had in the middle of winter, said Van Dommelen. Last weekend with the Microbrew Fest, Comedy Fest, Vasa and the Folk Festival and now the Wow!fest there is so much going on in February and this is a good problem to have.
Tim Hinkley the executive director of the National Cherry Festival agrees.
All of these events help to put Traverse City on the map. It tells the visitor or the person interested in moving here that this a place on the move, said Hinkley. I like how this festival is growing. This year moving things off of Front Street to the parking lot known as Celebration Central between Cass and Union Streets will help downtown merchants by not having Front Street closed all weekend and will provide more room for participants.
Hinkley pointed out that in addition to Winter, Wine & Wow! event on Friday night that there will be a beverage tent, both in the Farmers Market lot and at the Civic Center to allow for people to get a glass of local wine or a local microbrew. He is also excited about some of the new events.
Shanty Creek is partnering with us and they are building a monster tubing hill in the parking lot, said Hinkley. Plus the new EpicHappens Downtown Throwdown Rail Jam is going to attract thousands of visitors who want to watch some of the best snowboarders compete.
AMATEURS & PROS
The ski and snowboard community will come together for a full day of competition and socializing, said action/extreme sports promoter Matt Hodges, co-founder of EpicHappens.com, who is organizing the Downtown Throwdown event. This draws amateur and professional riders from all parts of the Midwest to compete for cash and prizes.
Hodges developed EpicHappens 18 months ago as a means to financially sponsor local ski, snowboard and skateboard enthusiasts to participate in competitions.
While we were able to raise funds to send a few to competitions we decided to evolve into an organization that would create events locally and give our competitors a chance to compete without leaving the area, said Hodges. These Rail Jam events are popular and we expect as many as 5,000 people will come and watch the 150 competitors.
The EpicHappens Downtown Throwdown Rail Jam takes place all day Saturday with a large spectator viewing area along side beverage and food vendors. Hodges notes that several major industry vendors such as Grenade GLoves and Cushe Footwear will have booths.
We are very fortunate that Danny Kass and The Dingo, two professional snowboarders with Olympic medals and the stars of Adventures of Danny and The Dingo on Fuel TV will be joining us. said Hodges. They will kick everything off Thursday night at Shimmers Nightclub at the Holiday Inn West Bay at 10 pm with a major dance party. They will make some appearances on Friday, judge the competition on Saturday and then be at the big after party Saturday night at the Loading Dock that will feature nine Shorts brews on tap and DJ Rick Chyme.
A REAL SWEETHEART
Other weekend events include the Sweetheart of a Sale promotion, horse-and-carriage rides and ice sculptures snow sculptures downtown. A softball tournament at the Civic Center plus several Cherry Festival events winterized including the Frozen Bed Race.
The Grand Traverse Resort will again offer the Winter Fun Zone featuring ice skating, sledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, rides on ponies, dogsleds, snowmobiles and horse-drawn sleighs, plus bonfires, live music, and after-dark fireworks over the snow.
The Winter Fun Zone is also home to a selection of competitive events that range from the familiar (Sundays Frosty 5K foot race and a kids snowshoe race) to the unlikely (a frozen fish toss.) Theres even a nine-hole Snow Golf Tournament on the Grand Traverse Resorts famed golf terrain. This year, theyve added yet another twist: a Sunday afternoon parade of vintage snowmobiles.
The Mt. Holiday Ski Area will offer several competitions including the Friday Downhill Dash, a no-holds-barred mountain bike/ski/snowboard race down the ski hill, the Cardboard Bobsled-o-Rama in which competitors must use sleds made only with cardboard, tape and paint, and Sundays Big Air Championship.
For a complete listing of events, log on to the festival web site at www.winterwowfest.com