Rochester Winterfest keeps getting bigger. For festival No. 13, organizers have added new events and brought back some favorites.
The collection of events, Jan. 29 to Feb. 14 all across Rochester, helps charities and gives people a reason to get outside.
“It’s just a great opportunity for people to experience winter every year,” said Olmsted County Sheriff and WinterFest chairman Kevin Torgerson. “I know people come from all over to see how we handle winter here.”
Torgerson, who has been a part of all 13 festivals, said Winterfest started with only six events, and back then six seemed like a lot.
“I can’t believe that we have gotten to 32 events, helping 22 different charities. It’s been phenomenal. I don’t think anyone though it would be this popular,” Torgerson said.
Once again, Winterfest kicks off with Deuces Wild! Dueling Pianos at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Wicked Moose Bar and Grill. The event raises money for the Rochester Senior Center.
Other returning favorites includes BaconFest (Feb. 5), the Frozen Goose Run/Walk (Feb. 7), the Hearts & Diamonds Spectacular (Feb. 7), Youth Ice Fishing Contest (Feb. 14) and the Polar Bear Plunge (Feb. 14).
New events include the Boogie Night dance (Feb. 6), a Blizzard Bash party (Jan. 30), featuring music and casino games, and ice skating and a bonfire at Soldier’s Field (Jan. 31).
Winterfest organizer Tracy McCray said after a “three-year hiatus” ARTrivia is back. The event will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Rochester Art Center. ARTrivia is a team trivia competition with an arts twist. Teams will compete in six rounds of art-themed trivia about pop-culture, history, geography, science, sports and entertainment.
Also back for the first time in six years are polar plunge weddings. On Feb. 14 before the polar plunge, Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, newly ordained, agreed to preside over ceremonies.
“People can take the plunge before they take the plunge,” McCray said.
Torgerson said in 2009, radio personality Mark Clark remarried several couples, but he didn’t remember any new marriages.
“This time around, we are hopeful someone will agree to get married on the beach,” Torgerson said.
The polar plunge has been a huge fundraiser for the Special Olympics of Minnesota. More the 2,000 jumpers will raise close to $100,000.
“The cool thing is that all of the events have to benefit a charity. Every part of Winterfest affects a charity in some way,” McCray said.
Last year, Close to 31,000 attendees broke their cabin fever, attending 23 events and raising more than $360,000.