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‘Wonderful’ Winterfest draws crowd to ODAS Park (8 photos)

'Wonderful' Winterfest draws crowd to ODAS Park (8 photos)

‘This event shows some light at the end of the tunnel,’ says Moonstone man. ‘It’s nice to do something outdoors and get that feeling of normalcy back’

Orillia families are gathering for wintry fun and excitement today at the third annual Severn Winterfest at ODAS Park. 

This year’s event feels extra special, says event president, Chad Cooke, after the 2021 event was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“There is a ton of interest in this year’s event,” Cooke said. “I think people are very ready to be out and feeling more normal.”

Cooke says the community response to the event has been all positive so far.

“People are spreading the word about this event more than I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a really good day.”

Masking is mandatory for indoor activities, but there are no protocols for the outdoor activities, Cooke notes.

The marquee events for the day are the demolition derby, which gets started at 1 p.m., the Polar Bear Dip which gets underway at 4:30 p.m., and the ice bar, which is open all day until 10 p.m.

“I think the biggest thing people are looking forward to is just getting out of the house,” Cooke said. “It’s going to be a nice day to enjoy some fresh air.”

Ian Culbert and his son Duncan made the trip from Moonstone to enjoy the ice house on Saturday morning.

“We are here to enjoy the great outdoors,” Culbert said. “We enjoyed the ice house and now we are headed for the slide.”

Culbert says Duncan is most looking forward to enjoying a warm cup of hot chocolate during today’s festivities.

“This event shows some light at the end of the tunnel,” Culbert said. “It’s nice to do something outdoors and get that feeling of normalcy back.”

The Housser family, who lives just down the street from ODAS Park, was checking out the ice bar after enjoying the pancake breakfast.

“We are excited to try out the slide today,” said the mother of the family, Lorna. “I’m most excited to go on the bouncy castle,” added Lorna’s daughter, Hannah.

The Housser family says it feels “wonderful” to get back out into the community after months of pandemic isolation.

The event costs $10 for an adult, $5 for school-aged kids, and is free for children five years old and younger. All funds raised through the event will go to the Orillia Agriculture Society and will also be put toward next year’s event.

“It’s the Agriculture Society who puts this event on and maintains these grounds,” Cooke explained. “They run the fall fair and a ton of other events.”

Cooke also encourages community members to join the Severn Winterfest committee to keep the event going strong for years to come.

“I know the Perch Festival just cancelled because they didn’t have volunteers or sponsors,” he said. “We’ve been shorthanded. I think we have a decent amount of volunteers today, but we were shorthanded to build all this stuff.”