AUBURN — Larry Thibault of Lewiston laced up his hockey skates at Walton Field, getting ready to go out on the ice.

A former St. Dom’s hockey player, he’s one of those active grandparents.

“I just bought these skates today so I can spend time with the grandkids,” he said with a smile.

It gets better.

“We just came back from Lost Valley,” Thibault said. “We did the snow-shovel sliding. It was a riot! We did the cardboard box sliding. They loved it. I did, too.”

Saturday was the second day of the annual Auburn Winter Festival. Saturday’s weather was perfect, sunny skies and temperatures in the low 30s, which felt downright balmy after days of bitter cold.

“This is great,” Thibault said. “It’s nice to have a little break from the deep freeze.”

As he spoke, James Veloso played goalie and appeared to be too warm for a jersey. He wore goalie pads, gloves and a chest protector over a T-shirt. But his arms were bare, as was his head. He wasn’t wearing a face mask or helmet. His helmet was on the goalie cage.

“They aren’t rifling shots. They’re just playing around,” he said.

Daniel Desrochers of Auburn, a former Edward Little hockey player, was just finishing a game of pond hockey.

“It’s my first time in seven years I’ve been on skates,” Desrochers said. He played defense and said his game wasn’t the best. He let a few get by, he said with a grin. But, he had fun, as did his daughter, Angelina McHerny, 8.

Holding skates with pinkish laces and trim, Angelina said she’s been skating for a year now. “I take classes from my daddy. He started skating when he was like 3 years old,” she said.

Angelina offered skating advice: “When you fall, you should get back up and keep going.”

Over at Central Maine Community College’s snow playground, Rick Caldwell and Kim Budd watched their children climb and slide on a snow fort complete with stairs, tunnels and slides. The snow playground was built by the Auburn Public Works Department.

“It’s nice today, comfortable out here,” Caldwell said. His son, Jacob, 12, enjoyed sledding and snowboarding on the nearby hill.

Budd’s daughters, Sophia, 3, and Ashley, 5, were playing on the snow fort’s slides. The festival gives parents and children something fun to do without spending money, she and other parents said. The snow playground “is key,” she said.

Perched high on the snow fort ready to slide down again was Lincoln Williams, 6.

“One more run,” said his father, Mike Williams

Williams said he had to coax his son to come Saturday. Once they got there, the boy didn’t want to leave.

“We’ve been here since noon, almost three hours,” Williams said, adding that his hands were getting cold.

“I’m not cold,” Lincoln said.

Williams said he didn’t have snow forts like this one when he was a boy.

“It’s great,” Williams said. “They did a great job.”

The festival continues today. The National Weather Service is calling for sunny skies but colder temperatures, with a high near 12. There will be a breeze, making it feel colder. Those who go should bundle up and dress in layers.

Today’s activities: Snow playground at Central Maine Community College, all day; pond hockey finals from 9 a.m.-noon, Walton Elementary School; public skating from 1 p.m.-dark, Walton School; paintball biathlon, 11 a.m., Lost Valley; ice skating and warming hut, 11 a.m. at PAL Center on Chestnut Street.

The Maine Ski Challenge, 1 p.m., Lost Valley; public skating at Norway Savings Bank Arena, 2-4 p.m.; cross country skiing, snowshoeing, rink skating and snowmobiling, 2-7 p.m. at Lake Auburn Community Center; free skiing and free lift tickets, 4-8 p.m., Lost Valley.

For more information: http://www.auburnmaine.gov/Pages/Government/Winter-Festival.


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