1000 x 90

A Weekend of Fun at This Year’s 21st Annual Blowing Rock WinterFest, the Best Attended Ever!

By Hailey Blevins

Each year, thousands of people gather in the High Country in January for WinterFest. This year was no different as Sunday marked the end of WinterFest 2019 and totals are still being calculated on Monday.

This year, WinterFest featured old favorites and new events alike, including the Polar Plunge, the Chili Cookoff, the K9 Keg Pull, a Silent Auction, and more.

Charles Hardin, executive director of Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, commented that this year’s WinterFest was “probably the best I’ve ever seen in the 21 years it’s been going on. I think it was because of the weather more than anything. The weather was perfect. It was cold, but it wasn’t bitter cold and there wasn’t any rain, fog or ice. It was just a really nice day for those folks who come from off the mountain.”

WinterFest’s WinterFeast was on Thursday night. Hardin said that this event was “sold out about 2 and a half weeks before the event even happened.” There were several nonprofits in attendance, and Hardin said there was even an after party dance and a dj.

One of Friday’s featured events was the Fashion Show at Chetola Resort, which Hardin said was “put on by our downtown retailers and Tanger Clothing retailers. It was well attended.”

The majority of the events occurred on Saturday. And though it was nice weather for January, everyone braced themselves for the cold as crowds gathered for the Polar Plunge on Saturday morning. “The air temperature was right at a little below 30 degrees. They had to break the ice two or three times. It kept refreezing,” said Hardin. Calculations are still being made, but Hardin said around 120 jumpers participated. “As normal, it was a good turnout there.”

Nearby, Brad Panovich, WNCN-TV’s Chief Meteorologist held a demonstration. “He has a snow making machine, so he was able to come do a snow making demonstration. And then, of course, he covered the events over the weekend too.”

After the Polar Plunge, Mountain Alliance held a silent auction. “We surrounded that event this year with the Beer Garden and the K9 Keg Pull, which was a new event, so we think that Mountain Alliance probably did really well.”

It seems that all the events WinterFest had scheduled attracted a crowd. “The K9 Keg Pull was a huge success. A lot of people were watching that. And the Beer Garden was also a success. There were probably 400 people at that. They had Handlebar Betty back there playing. We didn’t expect the crowd that we had, so we were just a little bit overwhelmed with volunteers managing that crowd, but it went really well.

Then the crowds showed up again for the Rotary Charity Chili Challenge, were Hardin says about 500 people attended, “We had probably five hundred people down there, and we didn’t run out of chili.” Fourteen teams of nonprofits and restaurants participated, with the restaurants making the chili while the nonprofits raised the money, “The one that raised the most money and won the trophy was High Country Breast Cancer Foundation and Twigs. They put a lot of energy into that.” High Country Breast Cancer Foundation and Twigs also won the competition last year.

The Wine Tasting & Auction at The Green Park Inn was very successful this year. “The auction afterwards raised probably around $3,000 for the Rotary Cart Fund, which is for alzheimer’s research,” noted Hardin.

The Dog Show also went pretty well according to Hardin, “Sunday’s event, the Watauga Humane Society’s WinterPaws Dog Show, was also very well attended. I heard some great comments on that.”

The weekend also included hands-on ice carving, with an ice carving demonstration on Saturday. As of Sunday, the sculptures were still in tact. “Usually it warms up and they melt and we push them over, but they’re still there and they’re still pretty. The ones in the park are also still there and lit up. They look really good, so we’re going to leave them alone.” The lights in the park will be up through March, though the sculptures will only be there as long as weather permits.

Overall, WinterFest 2019 was a major success, raising money for various causes and bringing people from all over to Blowing Rock. Hardin was pleased with the results, saying, “It turned out great. Sarah Goff, our events director, she did one heck of a job this year with planning and getting it all together.”

Hardin went on to comment on how busy and full Blowing Rock was, “I think most all the hotels were full. I saw mostly no vacancy signs. I don’t have any facts to back that up, but I know several I spoke with also said they were completely full. And not just that, but the people who were in the rooms were there for WinterFest, so that’s a good sign too.”

Pictures from WinterFest 2019 by Ken Ketchie:

Saturday morning started out with the Poplar Plunge that had over 120 jumpers this year.


The Polar Plunge festivals were emceed by Jon Carter of WBTV

Hotels were filled up with out-of-town guests who filled the street in their winter attire.
The Silent Auction benefited Mountain Alliance.
The Rotary Charity Chili Challenge served around 500 people, never running out of chili.

Guest enjoy their cup of brew in the Beer Garden.
New event this year was the K-9 Keg Pull attended by hundreds of spectators.

Winterfest 2019 Keg Pull in Blowing Rock, NC
Winterfest 2019 Keg Pull in Blowing Rock, NC
Winterfest 2019 Keg Pull in Blowing Rock, NC
Brad Panovich gave a snow making demonstration.
Ice craving in the park kept crowds entertained with their artistic work.

Hands-on Ice Carving attracted artists of all ages.