THE HISTORY OF WINTERFEST
WinterFest 2007 was a great community event. Planning started with a small group of citizens who adopted the theme “celebrating the holidays through community” and then, with the help of many, carried out a 3-day celebration with events for young and old.
WinterFest officially got off the ground Friday, December 14 with a big tree lighting ceremony in front of Portage National Bank (now Mainline National Bank). Businesses along Main Street turned their holiday lights on at dusk. Just minutes before 7 p.m. a Portage Fire Truck came down Main Street with the whistle blearing -- Santa was on board! With a ho-ho-ho, he threw the switch to the big tree and set it ablaze with lights.
Everyone moved inside the bank and enjoyed the music of the Portage Community Band, PAHS Acappella Group and Dwayne Kaufman.
While the music played, folks moved through the crowd and voted for their favorite Christmas Tree. Nine organizations were vying for the title of “Best Decorated Tree”. Now the trees were all beautiful -- have you ever seen a Christmas tree that wasn’t? In the spirit of “fundraising” for a worthy cause, the Rotarians stuffed their donation jar and by the end of the holiday had won first place.
There was major bustle on Main Street with the Live Nativity by the United Methodist Church and Christmas Carolers moving up and down the street. But there was also singing at other locations – taking the holiday to those who could not come out on Main Street.
Saturday was a very busy day – Breakfast with Santa in the morning plus cookie decorating and children’s movies offered by the various student groups and administration at PAHS. The Chili Cook-off was held from noon until 3 p.m. at the Royal Ball Room. It was packed – everyone seeking “heat” either from the warmth of the ballroom or the heat of the chili! Eighteen different chilis were entered – I understand some hardy souls tasted them all!
You could also be on the street enjoying hot, spiced cider; hot sausage sandwiches; kettle korn; French fries, baked goods – no reason to go hungry. Local businesses were wonderful – holding open houses, serving food, chancing off items – really in the spirit of the holiday and community.
Portage Rotary sponsored the Christmas Parade. It was snowing lightly and getting a little dusk as the Parade began. Wow – it was great to see all the folks lined up along the street clapping and cheering as each float or group went by.
While all this was happening on Main Street, folks were boarding a bus down at the museum to tour around town and enjoy the wonderful Christmas lights and house decorations. The Light Tour has been taking place for 14 years – thanks to the efforts of the Portage Area Historical Society.
Sunday was to be another big day but the weather did not cooperate!!!! Sleet, wind and snow forced the postponement of the concert at the Portage Area High School Auditorium. I don’t recall if the “Nativity Icon” presentation at SS. Peter & Paul Byzantine Catholic Church was forced to cancel or not.