By Nathan Ham
The 22nd annual Blowing Rock WinterFest brought plenty of visitors to the village ready to brave some cold temperatures and even a few hearty souls that took on the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Chetola Lake.
According to Suzy Barker with the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, there were a total of 143 polar plungers and the Watauga Humane Society won the people’s choice award as they received the most donations for the event.
Events took place Thursday through Sunday with a little bit of everything for everybody that included the sold-out WinterFeast, the WinterFashion show, the tomahawk throwing tournament at Mystery Hill, K9 keg pull, the beer garden, chili challenge and the WinterPaws Dog Show.
“Overall we had a big crowd, everything seemed to go really well and everyone seemed really happy,” said Barker. “It was perfect winter weather. When people started doing the polar bear plunge, the snow was falling and the sun was out but it was still chilly so we thought it was a great day all around.”
This year’s winner of the Rotary Charity Chili Challenge was Hunter Womble, the chef at Gideon Ridge Inn. Blowing Rock Art & History Museum was the charity that was lucky enough to benefit from Womble’s winning bowl of chili.
One of the biggest crowd favorites was the K9 Keg Pull on Park Avenue Saturday morning.
“There was a big crowd for it. There were some dogs that were almost 200 pounds and some dogs that were two or three pounds so it was really funny to see them all together,” said Barker.
For the first time during this 22-year run of Blowing Rock WinterFest, the folks at Mystery Hill went all in to offer visitors a bunch of different activities in what is being called Chill at the Hill and will become an annual event that corresponds with WinterFest, according to Mystery Hill’s CEO Matthew Underwood.
“It was amazingly crowded on Saturday. We have always been open but it was really our first year participating in WinterFest events. We did the WinterHawk Tomahawk Tournament and had about 390 people sign up and compete. We really enjoyed partnering with the chamber and the town and it was a great success for us,” said Underwood.
The tomahawk throwing competitions will continue even in the chilly winter months. Underwood says that the large tent that is set up will be heated and the fire marshal completed all inspections and gave all the approvals needed to keep the tent up long-term until warmer weather arrives in the spring.
Poplar Bear Plunge at Chetola Lake
Rotary Charity Chili Challenge
4th Annual Winterfest Beer Garden
K9 Keg Pull on Park Avenue
Ice Carving Demonstrations in Memorial Park