In its 11th year, WinterFest set to expand to 8 days

  • Lisa Palombo, a member of the University of Massachusetts stage crew dance team, performs at WinterFest in 2015. This year’s WinterFest begins Saturday. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Thursday, February 01, 2018

AMHERST — Downtown Amherst will be the scene of the kickoff event for this year’s WinterFest on Saturday, when more than 2,000 candles will be lit in what is being called the Luminaria at the Amherst Town Commons.

The Luminaria, starting at 5 p.m., is one of dozens of events, some specifically created for WinterFest, and others previously scheduled, such as basketball and hockey games at Amherst Regional High School, the University of Massachusetts and Amherst College, that will make up the 11th annual celebration of snow and ice, which for the first time is expanding beyond one day.

Organized by the town’s Leisure Services and Supplemental Education and the Friends of Amherst Recreation, LSSE Executive Director Barb Bilz said the eight days of activities for the 2018 WinterFest are made possible through collaborations with local nonprofits, businesses and colleges.

“We have over 45 different events and at least 20 different venues,” Bilz said.

For the Luminaria, LSSE is partnering with the Amherst Business Improvement District to create a showcase that will include activities on the common, including a performance by the Zumbyes, the Amherst College a cappella group, at 6 p.m. A local ice artist, Joe Alemida, will provide a carved ice bench. The bags that will hold the candles are being decorated by Amherst students.

The first day also features a WinterFest-themed story time at Jones Library, 43 Amity St., at 10:30 a.m., a showing of “The Princess Bride” at the Amherst Cinema, 28 Amity St., also at 10:30 a.m., a performance by Stompbox Trio, with Eveyln Harris doing vocals, at the Simple Gifts Farm Store, 1089 North Pleasant St., and a food demonstration, an instant pot 10-minute risotto class, at 2 p.m. at the middle school, 170 Chestnut St.

A week later, Feb. 10 at 1 p.m., the Grand Finale takes place at Cherry Hill Golf Course, 323 Montague Road. This will feature many of the usual activities for the event that commenced in 2008, including a chili cook-off competition between local restaurants, the Cardboard Classic sled race in which children and adults make their own sleds from boxes, the superpipe sledding hill and the best in snow dog show.

These all lead into the fireworks that close out the event at 6 p.m.

During the afternoon, food, snacks and hot beverages will be available at a food court, with wine and cheese tasting at 5 p.m.

All parking will be off-site, with shuttles running from Mill River Recreation Area and the Mill District.

The mantra remains that if there isn’t snow, organizers will make some.

Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children and $20 for families of three or more.

Other events during the week include pre-Super Bowl sledding at Cherry Hill Sunday at noon, the WinterFest Challenge Cup hockey game between WinterFest All-Stars and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, at the Mullins Center Monday at 6:30 p.m. and winter crafts and animal show Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. at Crocker Farm School.

Admission is charged at some events, while others are free. The schedule, which includes information about cost, is available at www.lsse.org or on Facebook@WinterFestAmherst

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.