Saturday, January 19, 2013

Vermont Winter Carnival

After 9 long days of being sick and having a bad case of Cabin Fever,  I attended a fantastic event in Ryegate Vermont today. A real winter carnival with lots of different activities.

I had never been to one before today, and I sure hope this is an annual event here!

The location of this event was out in the middle of nowhere, on a pond surrounded by big fields.
I went early so I could get a good parking spot.
Us early birds get to see all the action, such as this woman bringing fresh cut sticks to use for cooking hotdogs and giant marshmallows over the bonfires.

 Its hard to identify neighbors and friends since we are all bundled up tight against the 8 degree temperatures, but within a few moments I recognized the local town clerk and her dairy farmer husband.
( I was later told that this is not the town clerk and her husband.... so I guess it is hard to identify neighbors!!)

 Several trucks unloaded wood for the fires, big tubs of hot chocolate (free) sports equipment for skating, skiing and snowshoeing (free), and of course a big generator had to be brought in for electricity to keep certain special foods really hot for a few hours.

Us early birds gathered around the nice warm fire and planned which events we would partake in.

 I headed to the tent where the chili cook-off and tasting was going to be held.
Volunteers were signing in contestants and plugging their crockpots into the electrical strips that connected to the big generator.

There were 17 different chili's entered.
Tasting and judging would be in about an hour.

 I looked at the ingredients for a few of the entries and liked this one;

 I took a quick photo of it and headed back to the fire to warm up.

 Back at the fire hotdogs were being cooked.  The smell was just wonderful between the burning hard wood and the food.

 I headed out to the 2 freshly shoveled skating rinks on the pond and was amazed to see the amount of free equipment that was available to borrow.

Skates, all sizes and colors.

Hockey sticks, all heights and brands.

Fishing equipment, buckets and buckets of it to learn to use.

I bought my fishing license early this morning on my way to the recycle station, so I was ready to fish!

 I had 3 wonderful instructors who showed me some winning techniques and answered all my questions.

 I named the tiny, smart minnows who would help me catch a big "Lunker" as they call giant fish here in the North country.

 We didn't fish in the shanties, we stayed right outside and did it the way the natives have been doing it for hundreds of years.

 Its was fun to look up every so often and see lots of men bent over setting their rigs or cleaning out the holes in the ice.

 There were a few odd fish shanty's on the ice.

 A giant auger is used to make the initial hole in the ice, but it quickly refreezes so you have to use a big metal ladle to continually clean out the new ice as it forms.

 Ice fishermen are the very definition of patience.

This sport is a continual waiting game, in the coldest weather.

 It's easy to get your knees frozen to the ice too.

Don't ask me how I know.

At the edge of the pond was yet another fire to get warm by.

It had a nice wind block.  The view was incredible from here.

Woods, fields, pond and sky.

This pond is quiet, remote and fun to kayak, fish and talk to turtles at.

One of the biggest snapping turtles I have ever seen is presently hibernating in this pond.

Soon, crowds of people and familes started arriving to partake of the festivities.

Everyone was eager to roast weenies on the fire and were appropriately dressed for the bitter cold.

Including this weenie, who was not roasted on the fire.....

 When the chili taste test judging was officially opened, I stampeded into the tent and started visiting the 17 crackpots.
Each crock pot had the ingredients listed in front of it and a # . 
And each tasting cup had the number of the crockpot chili you were eating marked on it.  Genius.

I received ONE red ticket when I entered the tent and this ticket was to be put in a can in front of the chili that I thought was the best.

As I visited each and every crockpot,  I recognized one of the chili volunteers as my church friend, Linda, (she also has a nice flock of hens) who served me up some # 16 and # 17.

I asked her if her mean old rooster was in either of these crock pots.....

She swears he isn't....

I had to triple stack the little containers so 17 of them would all fit onto my plate.
Linda held my treasures while I snapped the photo.

There were lots of chairs to sit in while you figured out which chili was the best.

I ate them all.  And they were all very very very good.  The fact that all of them were nice and hot was wonderful.   The generator and the miles of extension cords and power strips paid off.

With 17 chili cups, hot chocolate and a big plate to juggle I had to figure out a system of separating good chili from the great chili.

The chili that I didn't care for I turned the cups upside down and the ones I liked I stacked right side up.

I widdled it down to 2 contenders and went back to refill those particular cups so I could make the final decision.

Several of my garden club members came and were also working very hard to find a winner.

 Several hundred people taste tested every morsel.
There were also a full table of breads and butter to go with the chili.
This was a very thought out event!

As I painfully cast my vote (I was torn between # 5 and # 17) I looked up and saw a man with a coyote on his head.

Its not every day that you see a man with a coyote on his head, so I asked him if I could take a photo and he graciously obliged.

There are hundreds of coyotes in this area.  I listen to a dozen of them howl directly behind my house every night.  I see their tracks go across the front yard and I have seen them in the cow fields in the summer.

I didn't ask Mr Coyote-on-my-head the story that went with his unique hat.

I could just imagine.

He was another person coming to ice fish and had a nice sled tote for all his gear. He was dressed warm and prepared to spend a few hours on the pond trying to catch a Lunker.

By now there were crowds at each of the dozen activities that were going on all over the pond, the 2 fields and pond side.
Here is the short list;
Skating, Sledding on Murphy Hill, Snowshoeing, XCounty Skiing, Ice harvesting, Ice fishing contest, Broomstick Hockey, Dog Sled rides, Horse Sleigh rides and Bonfire sing-a-long.

I was drawn to the voices singing at the fire so I joined them.
We sang lots of fun folk songs and I could tell there were many well tuned voices in that crowd. The harmonies were beautiful. 

One of the women sang the songs and did sign language too.

Families were still showing their young children how to roast a tasty hotdog and melt a good marshmallow during the group singing.

These moments will stay with me forever.

Farmers, musicians, lawyers, teachers and an assistant to a Senator stood side by side and belted out some fun songs.

The local fire department was there with their ice rescue equipment in case it was needed.

People were shuttled in style, back and forth from the fields they parked in, by this tractor and wagon.

An old Farmall, of course.

On the side of the fields were lots of snowshoes and cross county skis for anyone to borrow and use. The fields were perfect for a peaceful stroll .

 In the other field dog sled rides were being offered.

A wonderful opportunity, especially for young kids.

In between the rides many families were introduced to the dogs and taught about the hazards and fun of dog sledding.

My friend Dimitra trained these 4 dogs. 

I see her jogging early every morning for miles and miles with her dogs.

The other trucks were full of anxious huskies who wanted to get their turn pulling the sled.

Every time the main team ran by, this team-in-waiting would go a little crazy.

Being with the dogs was the perfect way to end the day for me.

I was so thrilled with the activities, the location and being in the presence of the happiest crowd I have ever been in. They literally had smiles frozen on their faces all day!!!!

It was a fabulous day. 
I give it a BIG "10" 
Many thanks to all the organizers, patrons and volunteers.

To see more photos of this wonderful event, please Click here and scroll to the bottom of the village's webpage.  There are photos of the kids fishing contest and the BIG fish they caught!!

If you have a chance, go to a winter carnival in your area.

Dress Warm!


  1. Loved all your photos and what a perfect carnival. I would love to attend something like that. We dont have that kind of weather here in SC so the thought of skating on a real pond is exciting. I grew up in NJ so I have seen ans shoveled snow :) ..... Thanks for sharing. What a wonderful Community.

  2. Brrrrrrrrrr! This looks really, really cold, but lots of fun! I was hoping to avoid snow this winter.
    Thanks for your visit and comment about my beach bird painting.

  3. I loved this sounds like a wonderful day!! I'm sure those dogs did go nuts, waiting for their turn to pull the sled. But the big question is...did you catch a fish?! :)

  4. You certainly find the most amazing events to go to. This was a wonderful thing to do, even in 8F. Thanks for the cheery report, it was almost like being there. :))

  5. Janis...I was hoping to send you and email, but couldn't find one on your profile. Question about your Live Traffic Feed on the sidebar of your you pay for it, or is it free? I think it's kind of neat, but don't want to pay for something that I simply think is fun to have on my blog. :) Are you bothered by ads or junk emails for having it? Thanks for any info you can share. you can find my email on my profile. Thanks! Alica

  6. This looks like such a fun event! Thanks for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop!

  7. That looks such fun. We don't have anything like that in my end of Engliand at least. Doesn't really get cold enough! I love the idea of the singing especially. :-)

  8. Marvelous!
    Ice fishing is quite popular here in Latvia. I am always amazed at their tenacity. Crowds of them will dot the river where it meets the bay.
    Last spring some 2000 got trapped on a sheet of ice that broke free. Many said it was a waste of tax payers money to rescue them. Silly.

    ps. did you ever name the heifer? or did I miss it?

  9. wow that was great thanks so much for sharing

  10. Looks like a fun day - you just have to grab a day and DO IT no matter what the weather is. I love the idea of the chili cook-off too. It is nice when the community can get out and have fun! Cheers! Evelyn

  11. I so enjoyed this post!We must be wimps here in Ohio!Just neat that so many people came out to embrace winter in Vermont.