South Portland Winter Festival planners pray for more snow

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The planning is done and the festivities are ready for the city’s upcoming Winter Festival.

All organizers need is a little help from above. 

“Everything is going to be ready as planned, but it’s a question about whether God’s going to give us snow and a good ice surface,” Dan Mooers said Wednesday. Mooers, a South Portland attorney, is a member of the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary Club, the festival organizer.

The festival will be held Feb. 3-4 at Mill Creek Park and Thomas Knight Park. 

Weather will be crucial, because every event except pony and carriage rides depends on snow or ice.

Events will kick off at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, with a candle-lighting ceremony and skating exhibition at Mill Creek Park. On Saturday, Feb. 4, events will begin at 9 a.m. in both locations, including snowshoe races, curling, hockey, family ice skating and pony and carriage rides.

Mooers and other Rotarians have been planning the festival since July. It’s meant to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the club and to raise funds for the group’s planned gift of a new seasonal shelter for ice skaters in Mill Creek Park.

“I really think we could turn this into another signature festival for the Mill Creek area, similar to Art in the Park – a winter event that the city and Mill Creek Park could be proud of in the long term,” Mooers told the Town Council last July.

If weather doesn’t cooperate, a “snow date” has been set for Feb. 17-18. In the meantime, snow-making equipment has been provided by Hannaford and Mooers is hopeful that the temperatures will drop low enough for the artificial snow to clump.

That will be important for the festival’s signature event, a snowman-making contest. The festival is free, but the contest costs a $15 registration fee for families or $25 for businesses. The best snowman maker will be awarded a yet-undisclosed gift valued at $75.

Other events include a hockey game pitting former Portland Pirates and Maine Mariners against city employees and Rotarians. Food will be served by local vendors.

Money from the snowman contest and donations accepted throughout the parks will go toward the Rotary Club’s charity fund, from which the $12,000 for a new skating shelter will eventually come. Financial support has also come from business sponsors including Wright Express, Bath Savings and Stanford Management.

The new skating shelter will be a great asset to the city, City Manager Jim Gailey said. 

“It’s pretty ratty,” he said in July, when the council first approved the plan for a Winter Festival. “It’s seen years of abuse. So now it’s time to look for another kind of shelter, providing a sitting area for those putting on skates or the moms and dads who just want to get out of the cold wind.”

The new shelter would be 14 feet by 8 1/2 feet, with benches circling the inside. It would have stairs and a ramp, and would be permanently attached to a trailer with a removable hitch for transportation.

But the shelter is a long way off, and so is the festival – if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Luckily, there’s at least a chance of snow almost every day through Jan. 24. If temperatures stay low, that just might be enough.

Mooers is crossing his fingers.

“Any weather-dependent event is a scary proposition,” he said.

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.

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The South Portland Winter Festival will take place Feb 3-4 at Mill Creek Park and Thomas Knight Park. Events include a snowman-making contest, ice skating exhibition, hockey, pony and carriage rides and more. Admission is free, but a $15 registration fee is required for the snowman contest.

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