Haywood County residents looking to brave the ice and leave their firesides this January can find an afternoon of respite from the winter in Waynesville’s second annual Winterfest.
The festival, themed Fire and Ice, is hosted by the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce and will be held at the Waynesville Inn and Country Club on Jan. 15 from 3-7 p.m. The event will feature an ice carving competition, a fashion show, a dog sledding race to benefit local animal charity Sarge’s, and an Iron Chef-esque cooking competition featuring chefs from around the region.
The idea is to make the county, and Waynesville in particular, a year-round destination, not just a summer and fall spot. Currently, there’s not much besides a bit of local skiing to draw visitors in the coldest months, but the chamber’s executive director CeCe Hipps wants Winterfest to be one of the first steps in changing that.
“The main reason that we were doing the Winterfest is to bring people into this area in the winter time to make it a four-seasons destination,” said Hipps. “Our hopes would be that in 20 years from now, it would be the size of the Apple Harvest Festival.”
With that ambitious goal in mind, Hipps and her crew have made a few changes to the festival this year, the most notable being a cut in ticket prices. Pre-purchased adult tickets will be just $10, while they go up to $12.50 at the door.
That buys admission to the festival but doesn’t pay for anything inside like food, drinks and souvenirs. It will pay for watching things like the ice carving competition, one of last year’s festival highlights and a sight to behold as skilled chainsaw artists go head-to-head carving up blocks of ice into glistening sculptures. The artists, Hipps said, come from around the region, including Asheville artist Jeff Pennypacker.
Another new draw at this year’s event will be Star Chef competition, which will feature eight as yet unnamed Western North Carolina chefs who will compete for a spot in the final two-chef competition. Competitors will be picked in the days leading up to the event based on their submission of a recipe that included two cups of mashed potatoes.
A fashion show and dog-sled race, open to all dog owners and their furry companions to benefit Sarge’s, and a fashion show will round out the afternoon.
Hipps said she realizes that coming out on a chilly winter afternoon isn’t exactly what a lot of people have in mind, but she hopes that residents and visitors alike will bundle up and come out for the fun.
“The biggest thing is I just want people to give it a chance, give it an opportunity. It’s in the afternoon so it doesn’t mess with your evening activities,” she said.
While the festival will be more an afternoon of activities than a full-blown, vendor-filled festival like autumn’s apple event, Hipps said that’s what they’re aiming for in the future. There will be one candle maker there, and the ice carving itself is a spectacle to see. All told, it takes the artists two hours to coax their creations from the ice, and it’s an entertaining process. But, she said, in future they hope to add more events and attractions to fill out the day.
“This is the start of it, but we anticipate that it will grow, not only from population but from activities and events that go on as well,” said Hipps. “We have some ideas for future expansions, and Waynesville Inn is great location.”
For more information call the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce at 828.456.3021 or visit www.Haywood-NC.com.