High spirits at Belfast’s first Winter Hoopla
BELFAST — The first annual Winter Hoopla came to a wintry conclusion Sunday, February 25, with blustery conditions that grew to include steady snowfall in the early afternoon.
The three-day event began Friday evening with an Ice Ball held at the Wentworth Event Center, featuring music, dancing, and catering by Bell the Cat.
Approximately 40 people turned up at the event, which Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Steve Ryan said worked out well.
“It wasn’t meant to be a large event, it was a nice little cozy thing,” he said, adding that everyone in attendance seemed to be feeling in high spirits. “We had a DJ and dancing and everyone danced; it was one of those moments where everyone was into it.”
The second day of Winter Hoopla saw several of their planned wintry activities canceled due to temperatures close to 50 degrees at their highest. Even events that weren’t reliant on winter weather seemed to have some difficulty drawing participants, something Ryan and other members of the Chamber of Commerce feel might be due to school break falling the week before the festival.
Both Ryan and Belfast Parks and Recreation Director Norm Poirier said there has been discussion about moving the Winter Hoopla to earlier in the month next year, potentially having it take place the same weekend as Belfast’s downtown Cabin Fever Sale, which takes place the first weekend in February.
There were a number of indoor activities Saturday, including a morning Chili Cook-Off held at the Wentworth Center where nine teams competed to be recognized as chili masters.
Nine total teams competed, separated into professional and amateur categories. Winners included David Schultz, from the Husson Dining School, who took first place with his team In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb, while Delvino’s Grill & Pasta House took second place with their team The Bean Chorizo. Jared Colson took first place in the amateur category with his team Jared’s Chili, with Bob Waldron taking second place with his team Meat A Palooza.
The overall winner in the cook off was David Schultz’ team, In Like a Lion, Out Like Lamb.
The Girl Scouts also put on a demonstration at Waterfall Arts, where bowling inflatable pins was also available to participate in.
There was no shortage of wintry weather Sunday, with planned events for the day including ‘Fat Bike’ demonstrations by Sidecountry Sports, who also provided free loaner bikes to try on Belfast’s Rail Trail. At the Boathouse there was an exhibition of battle technique by members of the Game Loft, a wide variety of games, and an ice sculptor.
While ice carver Tim Pierce spent his time leaning over a block of ice that slowly emerged as a sled dog, spectators cycled in and out of the cold by taking cover in the Boathouse, which had been stocked with free cocoa and cupcakes designed to look like ice cream cones.
The games were courtesy of Belfast’s Game Loft, who brought a few dozen games from the hundreds of games the group has at their downtown location, according to Founder and Co-Director Patricia Estabrook.
The Game Loft is a community based nonprofit organization that began in 1998, two years after Patricia and husband Ray Estabrook opened All About Games. When the store moved locations to their current 78 Main Street address, they decided to open a charity on the second and third floor of the store, which became the Game Loft.
The mission of the Game Loft is “to promote positive youth development through non-electronic games and community involvement,” according to their website.
“Back at the Game Loft we have just about everything, we have chess and checkers and Parcheesi, up to the newest games. We have two brand new games, one we’re playing right now which is a strategy board game named Scythe, which is about what would happen in Europe if World War I had ended differently,” she said.
The other brand new game, Funky Chicken, is so new it hasn’t even hit toy stores yet. Picked up by the Estabrooks at a New York Toy Fair they attend annually, she said Funky Chicken is a simple card game anyone can play.
After roughly 90 minutes of concentrated effort, Tim Pierce, who is also Executive Chef at Samoset Resort in Rockland, put the finishing touches on his canine ice sculpture. Using a torch to bring out the intricately chiseled features, Pierce then carefully lowered the dog, complete with ice tags, onto a wooden pedestal.
Pierce said he’s been carving ice since roughly 1992, originally getting interested in the hobby after utilizing it in his job as a chef. He said he got a glimpse of the skill in culinary school and knew then if he ever got the chance to do it as a part of his job, he would love to. Fortunately, Pierce has been able to work in several places that allowed him to practice his skill and estimates he has carved roughly 2,000 blocks of ice.
As for his favorite, Pierce said a recent ice bar he created for the Samoset is probably it. With a focus on Star Wars (something Pierce said he loves), ice sculptures included CP30, “which is probably the favorite piece I’ve done,” he said. There was also a BB-8, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and a life-size R2D2.
“So that’s always fun, to do stuff that interests you,” Pierce said.
When asked about his stoic duration of the cold when so many other people were able to take advantage of the warm Boathouse, Pierce said it didn’t bother him at all.
“This is no big deal this is warmer than my freezer,” he said laughing, “I spent a lot of time in the cold air, so this is a little warmer.”
Though the Chamber of Commerce might still be ironing when next year’s Hoopla will take place, Steve Ryan said the community has been more than receptive.
“I was super excited over the last couple of weeks, especially because organizations just one after another, came out and said ‘I want to be involved in this.”
Erica Thoms can be reached at email@example.com