February 5, 2009

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Music and dogsleds
Lowell’s Winterfest offers quirky winter fun 
By Dana Unger dunger@hippopress.com

New England is now deep into winter, and skiers and snowboarders are not the only ones who can have outdoor fun. Just ask the organizers of the ninth annual Lowell Winterfest.

The city will hold its Winterfest from Thursday, Feb. 5, through Saturday, Feb. 7, and organizers have packed in more than 30 food, music, craft and winter activity events for this year.

“I think that over time we’ve included more and more activities in our downtown,” said LZ Nunn, director of cultural affairs and special events for the City of Lowell. “We work with our local business on economic development and bringing more people into the downtown shops and restaurants so they can see what Lowell really has to offer.”

Winterfest offers outdoor barbecue grills and roasted marshmallows throughout the weekend, chocolates at the OompaLowla’s Chocolate Factory, as well as the North Bowl Soup Competition. New this year are the Progressive Dinner and Winter Cocktail Competition.

“We’re working with a lot of our local restaurants, where people can stroll around and taste a different course at a different restaurant,” Nunn said. “We’ve got about 12 restaurants involved. Certain ones are offering appetizers, some are offering desserts, and then that evening we’re offering the cocktail competition where people can vote on their favorite drink.”

For family activities, Winterfest has snowman competitions, winter sleigh rides, and a “Merrimack Valley’s Got Talent” competition for regional high school students. The Mittens & Museum Madness at the Tsongas Arena, will offer interactive games, arts and crafts, clowns, and performers for the kiddies.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the Lowell Winterfest is the Human Dogsled Competition, which is exactly what it sounds like. Teams of six — consisting of a rider, a musher and four pullers — race 200 yards to see which team can make it to the finish line first.

“This is part of the original Winterfest activities,” Nunn said. “It was an idea that came up here by one of our former colleagues. He came up with having human dogsled races instead of regular dog ones, where people are the ones pulling the sleds. It became wildly popular, and sort of a national phenomenon. We’ve done it ever since.”

This year, the competition will feature 30 to 40 teams, some sponsored by local companies, others consisting of groups of friends or sports teams from local schools.

“It’s a lot of fun and every team that does it has a great time,” Nunn said. “There is also a costume contest component to the event, and prizes for first, second and third place. All the teams definitely train and practice for it.”

Musical performances dot the Winterfest schedule, including Whiskey Tango, Matt Descoteaux, The Transitions and a special performance by U2 tribute group Joshua Tree.

The festivities will culminate in a fireworks display at the Tsongas Arena on Saturday, and all activities are free unless otherwise noted. For full schedule details, including times, locations and prices, visit www.lowellwinterfest.org.


Don’t miss at Winterfest
Progressive dinner & cocktail competition
Thursday, Feb. 5, from 6 to 10 p.m., downtown Lowell

Polar Party
Friday, Feb. 6, at 6:30 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 7, at noon, Club Celsius

National Human Dogsled Competition
Friday, Feb. 6, at 6:45 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 7, at 3:30 p.m., Arcand Drive

Destination World: Downtown Winter Stroll
Saturday, Feb. 7, from noon to 7 p.m., downtown Lowell

Chinese Lantern Festival
Saturday, Feb. 7, from 3 to 6:30 p.m., at ALL Arts Gallery

The Joshua Tree
Saturday, Feb. 7, at 7:30 p.m., Club Celsius

Glacier Gallery Artisans Market
Saturday, Feb. 7, from noon to 6 p.m., Tsongas Arena