SANDPOINT — This year marks 45 years of icy fun as the community gears up for the annual Winter Carnival.
The Winter Carnival is a celebration of winter, said Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce President Kate McAlister, meant to create a "bit of fun" during the winter for locals and visitors alike.
"It gives the town a bit of an economic boost as well," McAlister said in an email to the Daily Bee.
When the event first started all those years ago, it was held in January. But due to the fact it always rained at that time, McAlister said, it was eventually changed to Presidents' Day weekend in February. The timeframe also happens to coincide with winter break for Seattle area schools when a lot of families come to ski at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, so McAlister said it is also a way to showcase the partnership between Schweizer and other local area businesses.
The Winter Carnival historically had ice sculptures and other fun snow games as well as a "huge" parade with a grand marshal, which was usually a celebrity like Margo Hemingway or local celebrities such as the mayor or other officials, McAlister said.
"Back in the day residents would save their Christmas trees and bring them down to City Beach and town would have a bonfire with Christmas trees as fuel and of course music and food and fun," she said. "There was also the world’s longest stocking cap as well that would be worn and carried during the Parade of Lights. The infamous hat now resides at our local historical museum."
All of the events are planned and implemented by local businesses, except for the Parade of Lights, which is organized by the chamber. The chamber also partners with the businesses for the overall event, doing promotion and advertising, and keeping everyone on track, McAlister said.
The Parade of Lights kicks off the Winter Carnival on Friday, Feb. 16 at 5:30 p.m. The parade is free to enter and participants can either have a float or a group walking behind a banner. The only requirement is lights or glow sticks to go with the theme. Trophies are awarded for best in theme, best nonprofit, best business and overall grand champion.
"We encourage residents to come out and watch the Parade of Lights and join in the fun in right after the parade," McAlister said.
Since the parade is smaller compared to the Lost in the '50s and the Fourth of July parades, the route is different. In addition, she said, due to the two-way traffic revision, the route will be revised somewhat.
"So don’t line up on First and Cedar because we won’t be going that way," she said.
The parade will leave the city parking lot on Third Avenue at 5:30 p.m., turn left on Church, left on Second, left on Oak, left on Fourth, and left on Church, ending at the city parking lot.
While the parade will kick off the carnival, the fun is just beginning as the lineup of events continues through Feb. 25.
Some of the returning favorites, McAlister said, include "everything happening up at Schweitzer Mountain during Presidents' weekend and throughout the duration of Winter Carnival." This includes fireworks and a glow parade, as well as a "007" themed starlight party. Back in town, the K-9 Keg Pull is a well-attended event, she said, closing the carnival on Feb. 25.
"(The K-9 Keg Pull) started out as a small event in the alley by Eichardt's and has grown so much it is now held at the Granary," McAlister said. "Usually a TV crew or two show up from Spokane to get it on the news."
The fire dancers will return this year after the parade. This event is hosted by the Pend d'Oreille Winery and its new owners, Kylie Kramer-Presta and Jim Bopp. Kramer-Presta said the Gypsy Divas, Allegro, Lola on Fire, and Sandpoint Karate will be present, in conjunction with a bonfire, courtesy of the Selkirk Fire, Rescue and EMS volunteers. There will also be entertainment for the kids and face painting.
The 4th annual Cornhole Classic Tournament is scheduled for Feb. 17 at MickDuffs Beer Hall and always draws a crowd, McAlister said.
"And of course, we cannot forget the annual 219 Party on 2/19 starting at 2:19 p.m. at the 219 Lounge," McAlister said. "This event began by locals coming in and counting down until exactly 2:19 p.m. and taking a shot and then going on their merry way. Now, it’s become the start of a very fun party."
While those are just a few of the returning events, new events include concerts at the Hive and live music every night of the week in downtown Sandpoint. Jalapenos and Laughing Dog Brewery will be holding a beer pairing dinner at Jalapenos on Feb. 20, as well as hosting National Margarita Day on Feb. 22. The Weird Wonderful Winter Pub crawl is in its second year and is growing quickly, McAlister said. This year there are 15 participating bars and each will have one weird beer and one wonderful beer. Tickets are sold through Eventbrite. Visit the Dine Around Sandpoint Facebook page for information on purchasing tickets and taster glasses.
A brand new event this year is the Frozen 5K Fun Run, hosted by the Pend d'Oreille Winery. Kramer-Presta said there will be a yeti and hopes lots of kids will join the fun as the participants will collect items to make smores along the way.
A full list of events, including dates and times, can be found online at sandpointwintercarnival.com.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.