WELD — More than 500 people of all ages and volunteers from across Maine enjoyed a blue-sky day at Mount Blue State Park’s sixth annual Winter Family Fun Day on Saturday.
The low-cost, cabin-fever-reliever gave families the opportunity to try several sports, including Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, sliding down Center Hill and ice skating. Skis, boots and poles, skates and snowshoes were available free for people to try.
“It’s just a great way to enjoy the things of Maine in the winter that everybody can enjoy,” Ron Corey of East Wilton said.
David Fish of Weld brought two draft horses and gave hay wagon rides around the park headquarters at 299 Center Hill Road. Additionally, there was a Nature Center, complete with taxidermied mammals and birds deftly placed in niches and atop two walls of snow lining a path to the center’s building.
Members of the local snowmobile club towed sledders to the top of Center Hill so they could slide down individually or in groups. Other snowmobile riders pulled tote sleds of people down to an old foundation of a house for an educational ride.
Shelly Mooar of New Sharon brought her 2-year-old son, Riley Mooar, and homemade stacks of plastic crates so he could learn to ice skate the way she did.
She said she came with her sister, who brought her three children, too. It was their first time participating in the event.
“We came to enjoy the hayrides and the ice skating and sliding, and it’s been so much fun,” Shelly Mooar said. “The kids absolutely love it — perfect weather, too. Couldn’t have timed it any better.”
Temperatures ranged from the low to high 30s. Usually, Winter Family Fun Day temperatures are in the sub-zero range, with high winds, Corey said.
“This is about as good as you can get for a day up here,” Park Manager Bruce Farnham said. “It’s just a perfect day, weather-wise.
Riley Mooar said he couldn’t decide whether he liked ice skating or wagon rides better. His uncle, Fred Swan of Industry, walked on the ice with the youngster, helping him up when he fell.
After the skating, the two families stood in the hay wagon line with several other families, then they were going sliding, which was a 3-mile drive away.
Corey watched and encouraged children learning how to skate, helping them up when they fell near him.
“We really appreciate the Maine Parks department and how they put a lot of effort into this and a lot of work so people can get outside,” Corey said.
“Sometimes, winter in Maine can get kind of long and about this time — the first of February — it’s good to get out and enjoy the sun and the great outdoors and be able to skate, ski and snowshoe, and I really appreciate how they make it so affordable.”
The cost for adults was $1.50, with children under 12 getting in free. Lunch was provided.
Over at the cross-country skiing center, families were getting outfitted with skis, boots and poles with help from volunteers Matt McGuire and Lisa Drapeau.
One girl, Abby Noble, 5, of Gray, stood on Nordic skis for the first time while decked out from head to toe in green. She also wore a frog tote cap with bugged-out eyes.
Her father, Chip Noble of Gray, said they were visiting her grandparents in Weld, who invite them up every year for the park’s Take It Outside winter fun day event.
At the sledding hill, Kevin Rousseau of Whitefield and his 9-year-old son, Jacob Rousseau, were having a blast, completing all of the offered activities.
On their last ride down Center Hill, they came flying along in the same sled, their faces sporting wide grins.
“It is a lot of fun,” Kevin Rousseau said, lying in the snow with Jacob. “We just had a wonderful day that couldn’t be beat.”