Crystal Winter Festival ready to return for 2013

Snowmobilers race around Crystal Lake at the 2011 Crystal Lake Winter Festival. — File Photo

CRYSTAL — Last year, a combination of warm weather, lack of snow and thin ice led to the first cancellation of the Crystal Lake Winter Festival. This weekend, organizers aren’t letting Mother Nature get the best of them again.

“It is going to happen, no matter what,” Winter Festival Committee Chairwoman Pam Greenhoe said. “I think that the weather is finally cooperating with us this year and it’s certainly a pleasure to be in Michigan in the winter.”

This year’s festival, the fourth in five years, may not offer the inches upon inches of snow as featured in years past, but a string of cold temperatures over the past week have Greenhoe and committee members optimistic that Crystal Lake will be frozen enough to safely host several planned activities on Saturday.

“The lake has been building ice about two inches a night with these arctic temperatures,” Greenhoe said. “We need 12 inches of ice for the polar dip activity and it looks like we’re going to make it.”

The polar dip event, one of the more popular activities in years past, is one of several events to be featured on the ice of Crystal Lake. If officials with the Crystal Township Fire Department clear the lake safe enough for planned events, Greenhoe said the lack of snow shouldn’t deter the sprit of the festival.

“We’re really excited for this year’s festival,” she said. “It’s hard when you go from having to postpone and then cancel one year and come back and kind of fight to keep it going. There’s a lot of people that I know who are coming up to open their cottages on the lake for the weekend to enjoy the festival and that excites me.”

The festival will begin with a fishing derby contest from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. By 9 a.m., bonfires will start to pop up along the Crystal Lake Beach to help people keep warm.

A pancake breakfast will be offered at the Crystal Congregational Church from 8 to 10 a.m. followed by the chili and pie cook-off located at one of two tents on the beach at 11 a.m. Judging and tasting in the “Battle of the Chili’s” contest will last until 3 p.m.

New to the festival this year will be horse-drawn carriage/sleigh rides, which will be located on the south end of Crystal Township Park. The rides will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and cost $5 per ride with room for six people per ride.

Dog sled rides are another another event Greenhoe said she expects to be a hit. They will be located behind the Crystal Community Center from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with rides costing $3 per ride.

All of these events will be weather permitting, as they require a layer of snow on the ground, but Greenhoe said early weather reports are pointing in the festival’s favor.

“There’s  a 90 percent chance of snow on Friday,” she said “We’re hoping for a couple of inches to help us out.”

On the lake, as long as conditions are ruled safe enough, an ice rescue demonstration will be featured at 2 p.m. followed by the Polar Dip Dash at 3 p.m., both located at the Public Boat Launch.

Pledges raised from the Polar Dip Dash will go to the Crystal Township Fire Department for emergency equipment.

At 6 p.m., after the sun sets, a sky lantern launch will light up the crisp winter sky, followed by a fireworks show at 6:30 p.m.

Greenhoe said free warm paraffin hand dips will be provided from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Candle Cottage to help people stay warm in the cold temperatures.

“We’re going to have a great time,” Greenhoe said. “Between sledding activities for kids at Crystal Township park, roller skating at the Rainbow Gardens Roller Rink and even ice skating, this will be a fun time for families to come together and enjoy winter at Crystal Lake.”

For more details on the fourth annual Crystal Lake Festival, including a full list of events, visit www.facebook.com/CrystalLakeWinterFestival.

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