AUBURN — Saturday’s activities for the 13th annual Auburn Winter Festival were long on fun and short on formality.
Most of the action took place at Lost Valley Ski Area. Organizers estimated 250 to 300 people, young and old, braved the frigid temperatures. The well-bundled children had no trouble coping with the cold, but parents did their best to speed up organization and explanations to youngsters.
The children’s snow obstacle course was among the most popular events at Lost Valley early Saturday afternoon. The kids had to get over several sliding routes, crawl through a snow tunnel and work out some hula hoop and ring toss challenges.
Sign-ups were informal, so full names of competitors were not available. A youngster named Kyle in the 6- to 8-year-old group took top honors, with Stephanie and Ryan taking runner-up spots in that division. Participants in the 5-year-old group were Inae, Dominic and William, and the 9- and 10-year-old competitors were Delsin, Aldyn and Lily.
Martin and Sheree Bailey of Lewiston were among the many adult volunteers who kept busy all day with organizational duties. Martin said they have helped with the festival in several recent years. He noted that this Auburn Winter Festival marked the first year their grandson and granddaughter, Christian Reed, 14, and Aubree Pearse, 10, both of Camden, had seen Lost Valley. The Baileys said it was a totally enjoyable day all around.
Cardboard-box sliding, originally slated for Sunday, was moved to Saturday afternoon and about a dozen youngsters rode sheets of refrigerator packaging down the steep slope in front of the Lost Valley Lodge. It was mainly a competition to see who could hang onto the cardboard long enough to jump aboard, rather than a race to the bottom.
Ravi Sharma, director of the Auburn Parks and Recreation Department, said public skating at Walton School had to be called off Saturday because of poor ice conditions. Nevertheless, he rated the Lost Valley events a success.
“The ice sculpture is very popular every year,” Sharma said.
An ice sculpture depicting a Valentine's Day theme of hearts and flowers around a solid ice park bench was created beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday morning by a crew from Massachusetts. After about four hours of work, the large scene was placed near the Lost Valley entry doors, where youngsters and adults alike took turns trying out the cold seat.
Sharma said kiddie sledding and a bonfire with hot chocolate and s’mores was slated for late Saturday afternoon.
A torchlight parade of skiers down the slope to the lodge was scheduled for 9 p.m. and a band called “Under the Covers” played for teen night patrons in the lodge until closing.
Connie King, an owner of Lost Valley, said, “Things really started off with a bang. It’s the kids’ stuff that brings people out, and it’s all just as much fun for the adults.”
King noted that the Auburn Winter Festival is a great introduction to the skiing and skating opportunities available in the area.
The Auburn Winter Festival began Friday, Jan. 25. Other events included snowshoeing at Mount Apatite, a Perkins Ridge snowmobile ride, a variety of downhill and cross-country ski events, skating and dog sledding at several locations in Auburn.
Sunday’s concluding events include a noon-to-4 p.m. pre-Super Bowl barbecue at Lost Valley’s Brookside Lounge with free give-aways. There also will be public skating at Walton School from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; downhill mountain bike races at Lost Valley at 11 a.m.; snow rafting rides; slalom races between 1 and 4 p.m.; and public skating (fee charged) at Ingersoll Arena from 1:45 to 3:45 p.m.