Blowing Rock’s 17th Annual WinterFest Successful Despite Winter Weather; Check Out Photos Here

Published Monday, January 26, 2015 at 1:06 pm

By Madison Fisler Lewis

winterfest-2015

Jan. 26, 2015. Yesterday, after an extended weekend stuffed full of exciting winter events, Blowing Rock’s annual WinterFest celebration officially came to a close. This year, just like every year, the festival was a resounding success with tons of locals and visitors alike converging in Blowing Rock for a few days of festive winter fun.

“I would say that this year was one of the best years that we have ever had,” said Charles Hardin, executive director of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce.

“The weather is always interesting at WinterFest, and our very best years have been ones where it was warm and sunny, oddly enough, as far as attendance is concerned. I think all in all, it was a great event.”

Friday evening’s ice did not deter jumpers seeking to participate in Saturday’s Polar Plunge event. This year, despite frigid temperatures, a record number of jumpers took the plunge. Encouraged by emcee WBTV news anchor John Carter, more than 100 jumpers plunged into the frigid waters of Chetola Lake.

“I know that there were more jumpers than there have ever been,” Hardin said. “We had 130 jumpers [this year], and the most we have ever had prior to that was 115. We had a huge spectator crowd too, probably as big or even bigger than any prior. Plus, on top of that, there was a live video feed of the Polar Plunge inside Chetola during brunch.”

The winners of the coveted Golden Plunge were once again Dick and Joan Hearn, who have participated in the Polar Plunge event for years. This year, the couple was dressed as a lobster and a chef.

Though the Polar Plunge enjoyed record numbers, the weather kept a few participants away from the other activities. However, Blowing Rock hotels reported a number of overnight stays.

“We did have a lot more overnight stays in our hotels,” Hardin said. “Our hotels were booking up early and booking more than normal for overnight stays. However, what happened with the weather was at the last minute people down the mountain that were not planning on spending the night were a little scared to come up. Saturday’s events, other than the Polar Plunge, Chili cookoff and wine auction were seemingly a little thin.”

But thinner crowds doesn’t equal diminished success. The annual wine auction was still a massive success, and raised more than $7,000 this year.

“We have some regulars that come year after year because the wine deals are really good, and the auction did raise as much as before,” Hardin said. “We had the proceeds after expenses go toward the Alzheimer’s Foundation and this year we are also giving something to the organization that the Special Forces Ice Carving Team supports.”

As for the Chilly Chili Challenge, this year more than $1,500 was raised to benefit the teachers at the Blowing Rock School, to help cover their educational expenses.

“Attendance was a bit lower than last year, we had about 500 people when we normally have about 750 people,” said Kevin Tincher of the Blowing Rock School PTO, which runs the Chilly Chili Challenge.

“It went really smoothly this year regardless, no problems at all. We had a bit lower attendance for people entering the contest, but it turned out to be a great event.”

The winners for the chili cookoff event are as follows:

  • People’s Choice Award: Steve Rauchfuss
  • Best Table Decor: Bistro Roca
  • Restaurant Winner: Meadowbrook
  • First Place Winner: Charles Rogers
  • Second Place Winner: Ann and Chris Walker

If you missed it, or even if you were in attendance, check out our photos below of all the fun.

Photos by Sarah Weiffenbach

Chilly Chili Challenge

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Polar Plunge

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Ice Sculpting by U.S. Special Forces Ice Carving Team

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Wine Auction

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