By Kris Testori
BLOWING ROCK, NC- Thousands of people will be streaming into Blowing Rock the last weekend in January for what could prove to be one of the busiest WinterFests in History.
The Town of Blowing Rock is getting ready to celebrate winter the way it did before anyone had heard of COVID-19, with the return of WinterFeast, ice carvings, s’mores, a snowmaking demonstration with a North Carolina meteorologist— and many other events.
Let’s take a quick look at a few important things to know about this year’s WinterFest.
It’s the 25th annual: That’s right, Blowing Rock’s coldest annual festival, which was first held in 1998, hits the quarter-century mark this year. The yearly WinterFest is four days of family-friendly fun that incorporates everything from ice carving demonstrations to jumping into an icy lake in goofy costumes for a great cause.
WinterFest, originally created to celebrate the sleepy season in Blowing Rock, now raises thousands of dollars for local charities. In 2022, $26,500 was raised and divided among various charities.
WinterFeast is returning: After not being held since 2019 due to the pandemic, WinterFeast is back with two seatings on Thursday, January 26th. The feast is happening at The Green Park Inn and will showcase more than 12 local restaurants’ cuisine. Chefs from the high countries’ best restaurants will offer small plate selections. Tickets are $40 and are available online. The event offers a cash bar. The seating times are 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; each seating will be limited to 120 people.
Bask in freezing water at the Polar Plunge event: The Polar Plunge in Chetola Lake, one of the highlights of WinterFest, is now open for registration. The event gives residents and visitors a chance to dive into the icy waters of Chetola Lake while raising funds for the Hunger and Health Coalition and High Country Caregivers. Registration is online, costs $35, and is limited to the first 125 people. Participants begin jumping at 10 a.m., and the planners advise that spectators arrive early for good viewing. Jumpers should bring blankets for when they get out of the lake.
You can win prizes with the Hendrick Hunt: Hendrick Luxury Group is parking four luxury vehicles around Blowing Rock during WinterFest. For each car you find, you can enter to win prizes. Prizes include a two-night stay at the Meadowbrook Inn, a Yeti Cooler, Two WinterFest Beer Glasses, a $50 Gift Card to the Famous Toastery of Blowing Rock, The Speckled Trout Beanies, The Spice & Tea Exchange Variety Pack, and a Hendrick Vehicle Refresh. To enter to win, take a photo of each vehicle, scan the QR code located on the gas cap and upload your picture on the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce page with the hashtag #HendrickHunt. Four photo entries equal four opportunities to win.
Rotary Chilly Chili Challenge: The Rotary Chilly Chili Challenge is happening at The Meadowbrook Inn and showcases the best chili recipes from local restaurants. The event is being held on Saturday, January 28th, from 11a.m-2 p.m., and a portion of the proceeds will go to local nonprofits. Each participating restaurant is paired with the local nonprofit of their choice and raises money for that non-profit through a donation jar voting system. The “People’s Choice Award” goes to the restaurant that raises the most money for its non-profit partner. The “Judges Pick” will be awarded to the restaurant by a secret tasting panel of celebrity judges. Tickets are $8.00 per person. You can purchase online now or buy tickets at the door.
Saturday hay ride: This year, The Speckled Trout Outfitters, sponsors of the hay ride, are using their soon-to-be-famous Humvee to pull the wagon in a loop around Main Street. The hayrides start at noon, and pick-up is at the Blowing Rock Chamber. Hayrides are first come, first serve and will run until 3 p.m.
Annual WinterFest Beer Garden: Four local breweries, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Booneshine Brewing, Lost Province Brewing, and the Blowing Rock Ale House, are participating in this annual event with their best winter brews. The Speckled Trout Bottle Company and many other North Carolina Breweries will also offer their unique selections. WinterFest’s motto is “Don’t Hibernate, Celebrate!” and that’s precisely what you’ll be doing at the WinterFest Beer Garden. Tickets are on sale now for the event happening at the Meadowbrook Inn. Participants will receive tasting tickets and a special WinterFest 2023 tasting Glass.
Ice carving demonstrations and Ice Stroll:
Artisan Ice Sculptures has again joined forces with Blowing Rock WinterFest to bring you the best ice carving events all year. On Friday evening, take a stroll through Blowing Rock and see 25 ice sculptures displayed in front of businesses in town. A map for this stroll will be available at each display. Saturday, stop by Memorial Park from noon until 4 p.m. to see what the Artisan Ice team is creating. For this event, participants from the audience will choose what the two ice carvers create, and the ice artists will have 15 minutes to finish their creations. A total of ten sculptures will be created during the event.
You can learn the art of curling: Take this opportunity to learn more about Curling, the most-watched Winter Olympic sporting event. Charlotte Curling Association members will demonstrate curling in the Blowing Rock School Gym from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Participants can then try curling, giving the sport their best shot. Prizes for the best scores will be awarded.
It all wraps up with a pancake breakfast: Grab some delicious pancakes at the WinterFest Pancake Breakfast fundraiser while raising funds for Blowing Rock Elementary School. The event will be in the Blowing Rock School Cafeteria on Sunday, January 29th. The pancakes, and breakfast proteins, will be available from 8-10 a.m., and the prices range from $9-$14. Tickets are available at the event as well as online.
For a full schedule of events and to purchase tickets, go to https://blowingrockwinterfest.com/ Tickets, and more information are available by calling (828) 295-7851.