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Chelan WinterFest one of top weekends of the year
By CARY ORDWAY
Several years ago, the business owners and community boosters of Lake Chelan began to realize that the winter "off" season for this summer vacation paradise could be turned back "on" if people only knew that there were many exciting activities available during the winter.
It was a classic example of "build it and they will come" because this year's Winterfest celebration -- running January 13-27 -- will attract as many as 15,000 visitors who will be spending $9 million in the Lake Chelan communities. The event is held over two weekends -- one focused more on Chelan, one on Manson -- and boasts amazing ice sculptures, live music, wine and ale tasting, and many other activities.
Winterfest was actually born nearly 30 years ago with an emphasis on local outdoor sports and other fun things to do in the snow. Like many small town events, it started out modestly and was meant to be more of a local get-together.
By 2010, the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce enlisted an independent event director to take over Winterfest. The event still featured fireworks, a polar bear splash, a bonfire and other activities but live music was added. Then a few years ago the second weekend in Manson was added. Then came the Alefest and wish lanterns and, today, the event just continues to grow.
"Winterfest has actually become the best weekend of the entire year for many businesses,' said Erin McCardle, the Winterfest event director.
That is really saying something when you consider that Lake Chelan enjoys one of the best tourist seasons in North Central Washington each and every summer. It's an even bigger feat when you factor in the winter weather.