By Gord Bowes, News staff
Winterfest is marking its 35th year in Hamilton.
The annual event kicks off Saturday with an opening event at the waterfront ice rink at Pier 8 from 1-3:30 p.m.
Winterfest events run at parks across the city during the next two weekends.
The anniversary is met with mixed emotions by a longtime volunteer as the magnitude of the event has declined over the years, to the point where the event which features Chimo the mascot is not widely recognized.
“Even though it’s in the media, it just doesn’t seem to ring a bell with people,” says Karen Marcoux, a volunteer for the last 30 years.
“You can say Bonhomme and you know the Quebec winter carnival is on, but you don’t get that with the Hamilton Winterfest.”
In its heyday, the main portion of Winterfest was held at King’s Forest Golf Club and Chedoke Park, where an opening night torch ceremony was held down the ski hills. There were even dog sled races.
Neighbourhood groups would hold events one weekend in local parks, competing in lumberjack events such as log sawing and nail driving and other games, and the winners would advance to play for the city title the next weekend.
These days, laments Marcoux, the emphasis is more on the individual park events.
“That’s what it has become,” she said. “In the big years, it was a city event. The community groups held their own in the park, but then we had to attend the big citywide one the next week.”
Saturday at Pier 8, there will be ice sculptures, fire eaters, free hot dogs and hot chocolate, games of X’s and O’s played with ice blocks and musical entertainment by The Kevin MacLean Band.
A full list of events around the city can be found at www.hamiltonwinterfest.ca.