WinterFest to take place on Jan. 12 in Highland

Former Lloyd Town Supervisor Ray Costantino (on far right) roasts chestnuts at last year's WinterFest. This year's event will be held this Saturday, Jan. 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hudson Valley Rail Trail Depot at 101 New Paltz Road in Highland.  (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Former Lloyd Town Supervisor Ray Costantino (on far right) roasts chestnuts at last year’s WinterFest. This year’s event will be held this Saturday, Jan. 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hudson Valley Rail Trail Depot at 101 New Paltz Road in Highland. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Organizers are gearing up for what’s becoming an increasingly popular annual community tradition in Lloyd. The WinterFest at the Hudson Valley Rail-Trail (HVRT) will be celebrating its fifteenth year, attracting trail-lovers both local and from around the world to its January 12 festivities at the rail-trail train depot at 101 New Paltz Road in Highland. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the event will feature a competitive best-of-the-fest chili-tasting contest, with 20 local restaurants competing for the Chili King prize.

“They really get into it,” said Lauriann Marion, chair of this year’s event. “Everyone gets a taste, and in the end the people decide which chili is the best. It also warms the body and soul on what can be a chilly winter day.”

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The WinterFest offers tractor-drawn wagon-rides along the rail-trail by Dave Dubois. People can come to fire pits to enjoy the warmth as well as roasted chestnuts, toasted marshmallows and s’mores.

New this year will be a chain-saw exhibition by a man who goes by “Chainsaw Doc,” a chain-saw expert who will make a sculpture out of a piece of wood, said Marion, who operates Fashion Cutters Hair & Nail Salon on Route 299 in Highland, and has driven a school bus for the past 16 years. This is her second year of chairing the WinterFest.

Children’s activities are being organized this year by Susan Van De Bogart of the HVRT. “The kids have so much fun and there are a wide variety of activities, games and prizes for them to enjoy,” she said.

A volunteer will teach kids how to make and dip their own candles. There will also be a scavenger hunt along the rail-trail, various tossing-games and a hands-on Lowe’s-of-Highland-sponsored build a project, which includes a lot of wood and hammering. Something unique like a bird house, a time capsule, or a clubhouse will be produced. “Every year it’s a surprise and it’s different, so we’re not sure what they’re going to bring for the kids to work on,” said Marion.

The prizes for kids’ activities typically include gift certificates for roller skating, movie tickets, the Poughkeepsie Science Museum, toys at local stores. etc. “We will have a satellite toy-store there with train whistles, poppers, harmonicas — all kinds of inexpensive, fun little toys.”

Naturally besides the chili there will be hamburgers and hot dogs, traditional food fare and snacks for festivalgoers to enjoy.

What has made the WinterFest so special? , “It’s something that just keeps building on itself,” said Marion. “Winter is a downtime, people are often isolated in their homes and at work, and it’s a perfect location and occasion to get out and enjoy one of the great treasures we have in Lloyd, visit with friends, go for a tractor ride, taste chilly and be outdoors. We all need that inspiration to get out and breathe fresh air and walk outside and laugh.”

While there is a solid local following, Marion noted that people call me from all over. “They come from Florida, New Jersey, Kansas, out-of-the-country,” she said. “It’s become a destination event and we’re so thrilled to be able to host it.”

Admission for the event is $2 for adults and free for children six and under. For additional information go to www.hudsonvalleyrailtrail.net.

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