Before heading over to the sledding area at Lost Valley Ski Area in Auburn, Miles Hatch, 5, of Lewiston enjoys a s’more at the opening of Auburn’s annual Winter Festival last year. (Sun Journal file photo)

AUBURN — As another year approaches for Auburn’s annual Winterfest, organizers are hoping a new, interactive online feature can help more people join the fun.

For the first time, those looking to take part in the three-day festival — with events at locations throughout Auburn — can turn to an online map that shows the full schedule of events.

Using the city’s GIS (geographic information system) software, officials plugged in this year’s lengthy slate of events to create what they call a “story map” for the festival.

Click on a certain day and event, and it brings the map to that location, making it easier for guests to plan their day, and see the exact distance between events and other information. The map can be used on a computer or mobile device. 

Winterfest 2018 will begin Friday, Jan. 26, and run through Sunday, Jan. 28, and will feature annual mainstays, including sledding, skiing, fireworks, live music and snow sculptures. 

Sabrina Best, director of the Auburn Recreation Department, said Wednesday that the city had been looking for ways to use the GIS software, but that it wasn’t until planning Winterfest that they were able to “have fun with it” and get creative. 

“I don’t think there’s really another event in this area that utilizes that interactive story map platform,” she said. “We’re all super excited about it.” 

Each year, she said, a brochure is created with the schedule of events and locations, including a web version. But she said it can often be difficult to navigate on mobile phones. 

She said if someone from outside Auburn is trying to navigate Winterfest, the story map shows precise locations. In Auburn, which has a large land mass, it helps even more. 

“It solved so many of our issues for anyone who is not from the community,” she said. 

As for the festival’s events this year, Best said everyone involved is trying to grow their event to make it better.

She said the Public Services Department would begin trucking in snow to the downtown for the snow mountain that takes over a parking lot near Auburn Hall for the entire weekend. 

On Friday, Lost Valley will host Family Fun Night at the Mountain, with discounted lift tickets, a torchlight parade and fireworks at 9 p.m. 

Saturday, Winterfest will move to downtown Auburn, where in Festival Plaza there will be the annual snow mountain, fire pits for s’mores, a petting zoo and ice sculptures. 

The events continue into Saturday night and Sunday, with a family sledding and skating event on Sunday at Sherwood Heights School hosted by the United New Auburn Association. Best said the sledding event has grown over the years into “a really big event.” 

Other events will take place at the Auburn Public Library and Foss Mansion. 

[email protected] 

– A full list of events can be found on the city’s website at www.auburnmaine.gov.

– For the interactive “story map” feature, click here

Optimist Club member Scott Davis, blows out the marshmallow that Quinn Mitchell, 5, of Auburn was roasting at Lost Valley for her s’more during last year’s Winterfest. (Sun Journal file photo)

(Sun Journal file photo)


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