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Navigating around Winterfest



WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW - The nearly $1 million bridge reconstruction is being funded mostly by the state Department of Transportation through federal stimulus monies approved in late 2009. According to the most recent information, the stimulus money will fund $933,000 and the city's portion will be about $50,000. The reconstructed bridge will be wider, include a bike lane and the underneath section will still be arched, but slightly higher to allow personal watercrafts and other larger boats easier navigation underneath from the lagoon into the main lake.
February 01, 2011 | 04:04 PM
This year's Winterfest will be a little different.

But, the difference has nothing to do with the snow sculpting competition, activities at the Riviera or when the event is being held.

Instead, it's all about locals and visitors navigating their way around activities during the construction of the Wrigley Drive bridge, which is located near the Riviera and Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce facility on the lakefront.

In late fall, the bridge was demolished. This spring it will be replaced by a wider and higher-arched bridge.

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Although it has been inconvenient for locals during the fall and winter so far, this weekend is expected to be the most difficult with crowds heading into the city to check out the snow sculptures and enjoy other activities.

For Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director George Hennerley, who leads the organization of the popular winter event, there's little to say about the missing bridge.

"There's not much you can do about it," he said.

Hennerley said tourists will just have to make their way around and to Winterfest without the Wrigley Drive bridge. He said that shouldn't be much of an issue for most. Hennerley suggested the biggest problem would be for people coming from the Center Street area near the dam or other parking areas on the eastern side of the city.

He called the bridge work "inconvenient," but he also said for those people who are planning to visit Winterfest and the lakefront for a few hours, a little extra walking shouldn't be a problem. He said if the weather is relatively mild, there shouldn't be a problem.

Those who park on Center Street near the Cove will have to walk back up the street to use Main and through downtown to take Broad to the Riviera. Typically, those people would have cut through Flatiron Park, crossed the street near the Chamber building and then across the bridge to Riviera Park.

"It is what it is," he said. "It's not like you have to take a ferry to get to Winterfest."

Hennerley said there are more issues revolving around the use of Riviera Park. He said a new layout will be needed because some of the large equipment used to work on the bridge is sitting on the sidewalks on the east side of the park.

There have been street signs warning of the bridge closure at the intersection of Main Street and Wrigley Drive next to the Lake Geneva Public Library at the intersection of Main and Broad streets. Hennerley said there won't likely be additional signage to deal with the closure.

"I think it should be fairly visible what's going on," he said.

There is one thing he doesn't want to see during what he expects to be another "wonderful" Winterfest.

Hennerley urged people to not cut across the ice on Geneva Lake to go from Center Street to Riviera Park. He said while there are easy spots to get on the ice, like near the municipal boat launch, it is difficult to get back on shore near the Riviera.

Sculpting under way

The snow carving started Wednesday morning, with judging set for Saturday morning, Feb. 5. Each snow sculpting team consists of three members, each older than 18 and from the same state. No assistance is allowed at the sculpture site, except any given by competition organizers and ground crews.

Nothing other than snow, ice or water are used in the sculpting process. The rules also stipulate that power tools are not permitted. The teams use saws, axes, files, scaffolding, shovels and a variety of homemade implements to craft their creations.

Often, the sculptures don't come together until late in the process. Many of the details are carved just before judging and weather also seems to play a role in the event each year. No matter whether there is snow on the ground, artificial snow will be used because it melts slower than natural snow and carves better.

Sculpting ends at 11 a.m. Saturday and People's Choice voting runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Winners will be announced after the voting is complete. Last year's People's Choice award also was the second-place winner, "If I Only Had a Brain" by a team from Michigan. Team Wisconsin won the competition last year with their Egrets sculpture.

Other events

The weekend will be full of activities, mainly in the Riviera Ballroom and lakefront areas.

On Saturday, the Riviera Ballroom will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. where there will be raffles, entertainment, food, fun and refreshments. Children's entertainment will include music and magic starting each hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. In the park and along the lakefront Saturday, there will be children's sculpting and wagon, helicopter and wheeled sleigh rides.

On Sunday, the Riviera Ballroom will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include food booths and bluegrass and country entertainment.

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