BLOWING ROCK — With ice sculptures all around and visitors from near and far, the 25th WinterFest took over Blowing Rock and was deemed by many as one of the “best ever.”
“We have received so many comments from people saying this was the best WinterFest ever,” said Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce’s Cathy Barker. “We sold out just about every event.
One of the most popular events was the Polar Bear Plunge. Money raised from the plunge will go to the Hunger and Health Coalition and the High Country Caregivers. The total amount raised is not known as of publication.
From a 9-year-old girl to an 88-year-old woman, approximately 125 people took the plunge at the WinterFest Polar Bear Plunge event on Saturday.
Emcee John Carter of WBTV brought laughs to the crowd as he introduced each plunger to the hundreds gathered around Chetola Lake.
“I have been doing this for years and this may be the best one ever,” Carter said. “We had, what I think, was the best costume ever — the fella who was body-painted as a speckled trout. That was incredible. It’s just an amazing event. Everybody has such a great time. It’s fun. For folks who don’t realize it, it is cold in that water. It’s a wonderful event, and I’m proud and just flattered to be a part of it. It’s great. I love it.”
Carter’s “best ever” costume — a community member who was fully painted as a speckled trout along with a fisherman “catching” him — earned the Golden Plunger Award. The jumpers were part of Blowing Rock business Speckled Trout Outfitters.
Jacob Daniels, one of the owners of Common Good, painted the “trout,” which he said took about an hour and a half. He said it was his first time using an airbrush. After his artwork jumped into the lake, Carter asked if Daniels would too.
“I didn’t expect to jump into the water today,” Daniels said. “It was cold, (but) it was great.”
The Queen of the Polar Plunge, 88-year-old Joan Hearn, kept her streak alive as she participated in the plunge. She joked to Carter “why don’t you” when asked why she does it every year. She was also quick to point out that it makes her feel “wet” and that she will never stop doing the plunge.
While they didn’t have to cut a hole in the ice this year, there was ice around the lake and many plungers were quick to point out how cold it was as they climbed out.
Also a popular event was the Rotary Chilly Chili Challenge.
This year it took place at Meadowbrook Inn in the Four Seasons Ball Room, and it was packed.
“This is great. We were worried a little bit because it wasn’t as big a venue as the school gym, but this is wonderful,” said David Sweet of the Rotary Club of Blowing Rock.
Michael Foreman from The Speckled Trout won the Judge’s Choice Award at the Rotary Chilly Chili Challenge and The Blowing Rock Ale House and their nonprofit partner the High Country Caregivers won the People’s Choice Award.
From one week oceanside getaways and private violin lessons to business specials and passes to festivals, the silent auction benefiting Mountain Alliance raised a gross amount of more than $30,000 gross, with a final total being announced at a later date once the organization also calculates expenses.
“The Mountain Alliance annual Silent Auction went really well this year,” said Mountain Alliance Executive Director Marisa Sedlak. “We had it open for bids virtually for a week and we ended it with an in-person viewing event on Saturday Jan. 28 in the Legion Hall in Blowing Rock. We had a consistent amount of people coming and going throughout the day and placing their bids. The last 30 minutes of the auction is always exciting because everyone waits until then to make their final bids and our team gets to watch the bids increase rapidly. At the end of the day, we ended up making almost $5,000 more than we made at our auction last year, so it was definitely a success. Our whole Mountain Alliance team and volunteers worked extremely hard this year and it paid off!”
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