BETHEL — Getting lost in Bethel takes on new meaning come Saturday, Jan. 23, when WinterFest‘s week of family fun opens and children start trying to navigate through a giant snow maze.

Work began this week on the 112- by 100-foot engineering marvel designed by Newry engineer Jim Sysko, the man behind Bethel’s world-record giant snowman, Angus, and giant snow woman, Olympia.

“We’re doing 3,000 feet of wall,” Sysko said of the two-week project Tuesday afternoon while working on the seventh of 30 4-foot-tall walls that stretched 100 feet.

The maze site is in Festival Plaza at 37 Cross St.

“The town of Bethel likes working with snow,” Sysko said. “I’ve drawn mazes on paper before, but I’ve never done anything like this.”

“Jim is dedicating two weeks of his time to it, which is pretty phenomenal,” Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday.

“The Snow Maze is meant for kids — it’s 4 feet high — but I’m sure parents will go through it with them.”

Three hundred feet of walls were completed Monday, the day after the wooden wall forms were made. By 3 p.m. Tuesday, the handful of volunteers had built four more walls, each exactly 100 feet long.

Sysko held a plywood board to deflect snow dumped by volunteer Dave Freiday of Bethel into the wall trough using a Bobcat front-end loader. The wall forms are made of two 4- by 16-foot wooden frames held upright by metal rods. As one 16-foot-long section was built, the frames were unbolted, moved to the other end of another pair of frames, and bolted into place.

Sysko and volunteers Al Sumner, Lainey Cross and Bob Westfall, all of Bethel, and David Walker of Newry, compacted the snow and leveled it off before sliding the panels ahead to create the next 16-foot-long section during the bitter cold day.

Both Savage Contracting and Cross Excavation donated their time and equipment to haul 35 dump truck loads of snow to the site from Bethel Regional Airport on Tuesday morning, because there wasn’t enough snow at the work site, Sysko and Zinchuk said.

Volunteers are welcome to help build the walls, which are expected to be completed this weekend.

Then the real fun begins — carving the maze itself, Westfall said.

“There are going to be many false dead-end passages,” Sysko said. “The maze is going to be one of those branching passages and most of those passages are dead ends.”

Joining the maze and ice skating rink, will be a snow sliding hill, a snow-sculpture playground created by world renowned ice sculptor Ed Jarrett, and an ice carving competition.

Zinchuk said the first eight ice carvers who call the chamber will get reserved for them a block of ice with which to create a work of art.

Judging the work will be two culinary arts ice carving instructors from White Mountains Community College in Berlin, N.H.

“This is not one thing in one place like the snowwoman, which was really great, because we wanted to spread things out,” Zinchuk said of WinterFest.

The family-oriented event will showcase winter recreation in town, including the debut of a competitive snowboard and ski rail jam atop a hill of snow from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, in one lane of lower Main Street.

For a schedule of WinterFest events, visit www.bethelwinterfest.com or call the chamber at 800-442-5826.

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Volunteers work on a 4-foot-high wall of snow on Tuesday afternoon in Bethel for the town’s upcoming WinterFest Snow Maze. The 30 walls of the 112- by 100-foot maze are expected to be finished this weekend, then the passageway cutting will begin.

Newry engineer Jim Sysko, the mastermind behind Bethel’s world-record giant snowman and snow woman, deflects a bucket load of snow into a 4-foot-tall frame Tuesday to help create a wall of snow for the town’s newest WinterFest attraction: a giant snow maze for children. The all-volunteer crew is building 3,000 feet of walls for the 112- by 100-foot maze.

Newry engineer Jim Sysko deflects snow dumped Tuesday afternoon by Bobcat operator Dave Freiday of Bethel into a 4-foot   tall by 16-foot long trough to create a snow maze near the town ice rink. The maze will be open to the public when the Bethel WinterFest kicks off Saturday, Jan. 23.

Bethel Snow Maze designer and volunteer Jim Sysko of Newry deflects a bucket load of snow on Tuesday into a 4-foot-high trough being used to make walls of the maze 112-by100-foot maze opposite the Casablanca Theater parking lot. The maze will be one of several family-oriented recreational attractions during Bethel’s WinterFest from Jan. 23-31.

Bethel Snow Maze volunteer David Walker, right, of Newry dumps snow into a 4-foot high trough to help create a 112- by 100-foot maze being built opposite Casablanca Theater’s parking lot in Bethel. At left is Newry engineer Jim Sysko, who designed the maze, and volunteers Al Sumner and Lainey Cross, both of Bethel.

Bethel Snow Maze engineer Jim Sysko, right, of Newry, aligns a 4-by-16-foot frame for another section of maze wall as volunteers Al Sumner, left, and Bob Westfall carry a matching frame along one 100-foot-long wall section on Tuesday afternoon while building the seventh of 30 walls for the Bethel WinterFest playground. Volunteers working on Sysko’s side of the wall are David Walker of Newry and Lainey Cross of Bethel.


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