LISBON — Beaver Park welcomed dozens of families back to Winter Fest for snowshoeing, dogsledding and more Saturday. The town’s Parks and Recreation Department started planning the event’s post-pandemic return in the fall of 2021, but last January’s weather wouldn’t allow it.

Parks and Rec Deputy Director Kate Madore said she and her staff and volunteers were all getting nervous this season would be a repeat, but it was almost last minute when the weather they were counting on nearly overwhelmed them.

“We spent the last few days trying to get this facility to go from nothing — to then freezing over and having so much snow — to get all the trails groomed and everything plowed out,” said Madore. “Our team was absolutely incredible and we’ve been working around the clock so we could be open and running today.”

While ice skating was off limits due to thin ice, families were able to enjoy a live wood-carving demonstration by chainsaw artist Greg Waters, dog sled rides around the park’s trails with Ultimate Dog Sledding Experience of Oxford and nature hikes via snowshoes with U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife biologist Ben Nugent. L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools provided snowshoes and instruction. Volunteers provided free chili, chowder and coffee at the park’s lodge, local Boy Scouts manned a fire pit and McDonald’s provided free grill-cooked burgers and hot cocoa.

Professional sledder Alex Therriault and his employees relished introducing the dogs to children and families when switched between runs. The dogs, which almost love meeting people more than racing, were perpetually antsy to get attached to their teams and run the trails. They love to run, so there are no worries about needing to motivate them, said Therriault.

“This is how we started doing events,” Therriault said, explaining it was a call from Lisbon that got him back into appearing at events. “We used to do eight to 12 every year, but COVID killed that. This is our first one back, this year. The first one since COVID.”


Therriault said based on sled riding’s popularity at past events, the two sled teams he brought this year will probably reach over 100 rides. He said the most runs they have had in a day at Beaver Park were around 350 when he had three sleds running for five hours.

Kids Jane DeGroft and Nora Camire said they were a little jealous just watching their friends take a spin on the dog sleds, but were having an absolute blast at Winter Fest. Jane said her favorite part was the dogs and watching the teams take off and come back to the trail heads to pick up new passengers.

“My favorite part was snowshoeing,” said Nora. “I liked that we got to walk and see the trees and how pretty they are in nature.”

Just as Jane and Nora’s friends disembarked their sled, sisters Diane Burgoin of Lisbon and Morneault France of Lewiston emerged from the trails on snowshoe. France is part of a hiking group and said she tries to snowshoe every week while there is snow on the ground. Burgoin said she typically joins in a couple times a year. The snowshoeing sisters, or self-proclaimed “Snail Trail Hikers,” just happened upon Winter Fest, they said.

“We just did the big loop which is, I think, around 1.3 miles,” said Burgoin.

“We were planning on snowshoeing and then we found out Winter Fest was going on, so we’re doing it all,” said France.


Having already led two nature hikes via snowshoe by noon, Nugent said he enjoys taking his own time outside of his job to introduce kids and their families to the nature of their own backyard. He also brought pelts, bones, barks and other artifacts from Maine’s wildlife to keep on display to answer questions. Nugent said he will attend just about any event he is asked to come to.

“It’s my passion, teaching kids about nature,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know about the different animals we have … I’m always happy to do it if someone asks. “

Madore said Winter Fest is as much educational outreach as it is anything else. During her childhood, she wasn’t a sports enthusiast and her family was not big on spending time outdoors in the cold. Winter Fest is a great stepping off point for anyone like her who wants to introduce the outdoors to their families in a safe and friendly environment.

Winter Fest was not as well-attended as in years past, but that was expected having been on a three-year hiatus, said Madore. Even so, the parking lot was packed and people were still parking their vehicles down the road which is a good sign, she said.

“We’re a small team, we put a lot into this (and) we’d love to have it on people’s minds for another year,” said Madore. “This is the return of a loved tradition.”

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