Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Lake Geneva’s Winterfest just days away

by Lisa Seiser

January 26, 2012

December and January haven't exactly felt like winter, with unseasonably warm temperatures and limited snowfall.

But starting next Wednesday, Feb. 1, organizers of the annual Lake Geneva Winterfest, home of the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition, are hoping to bring real winter to the area.

The annual event runs from Feb. 1 to 5 and is hosted by the Lake Geneva Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

Although the mild temperatures and sun are back after some cold, snowy days and nights, next week should be just chilly enough for a perfect Winterfest and snow sculpting competition.

Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce Executive Director George Hennerley said snow isn't an issue as long as temperatures drop below freezing at night. Snow for the event is made at the Grand Geneva and then hauled to the Riviera Park in dump trucks.

On Monday, the 3-ton, 10-foot tall snow cylinders will be created and the sculpting begins Wednesday.

Hennerley said during a past Winterfest, temperatures climbed into the 60s on the final day of sculpting. However, it doesn't appear temperatures will get that high next week.

"Mother Nature is just another member of each of these teams," Hennerley said. "It's a competition and everyone has to deal with the same conditions."

Nothing other than snow, ice or water are used in the sculpting process. The rules also stipulate that power tools are not permitted.

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.

While the snow sculpting is the main event of Winterfest, there are numerous other activities during the weekend at the Riviera Ballroom and round the area.

Sculpting ends at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 4 and the public votes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on their favorite sculpture. At the same time, the Riviera is open for entertainment, food, fun and refreshments. The WOZ will perform music and magic at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., while Tom Stanfield will hold a sing-a-long at noon and 2 p.m. At 3 p.m., the focus is back to the snow sculpting as the winners are announced.

Also on Saturday, Grand Geneva has its Winter Carnival activities, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mountain Top ski area. Among the activities there are ski demonstrations, balloon clown, ski patrol demonstration, ski and snowboard competition, human bowling, three-legged race and face painting. At 8 p.m., the day is capped off with a torch light parade and fireworks display.

On Sunday, the Riviera is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with entertainment, food, gold sponsor booths and Down Home Blue Grass and Country entertainment.

Throughout the weekend, there will be special in store activities and events in downtown shops and restaurants. Sleigh and helicopter rides also are anticipated among the activities during the weekend.

Lake Geneva's Winterfest has been held in this current format since 1996. Prior to that, there were winter events, but there was no snow sculpting.