WinterFest 2014 to take place in Highland on Saturday, Feb. 8

Members of the Highland Rotary Club serve up chili during the WinterFest in 2011. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Members of the Highland Rotary Club serve up chili during the WinterFest in 2011. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Snow or sleet, rain or shine, the 16th annual WinterFest in Highland will go on, says Laurianne Marion, chairperson of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail Association (HVRTA) committee organizing the event. All the action takes place on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. under the Highland Rotary Pavilion at the Hudson Valley Rail Trail Depot located at 101 New Paltz Road in Highland. Admission costs $3 for adults and children age 6 and under get in free. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Rail Trail’s upkeep.

WinterFest 2014 is expected to draw its usual enthusiastic crowd. “Last year we had over 1,000 people attend,” Marion says, “and this year it’s bigger than it’s ever been.” The family-friendly event really draws the community together, she adds. “We get a lot of volunteers for this. It’s great to see how many people want to help out.”


Activities will include crafting in the children’s “Build a Project” tent sponsored by Lowe’s with their staff on hand to assist; tractor-drawn wagon rides on the Rail Trail with David DuBois of Highland’s DuBois Farms, who volunteers his machinery and his time; wood carving demonstrations by Bruce Bayard of Newburgh’s Chainsaw Bear, who carves bears and other animals out of rustic logs using a chainsaw (these demos replacing the ice carving demos of years past); and the popular “Best of Fest” chili tasting and contest, with samplings of chili sold at nominal charge.

Visitors are invited to vote for their favorite chili out of the many varieties available, including vegetarian options. At least 22 local restaurants are contributing a few gallons each of the fragrant stew, vying for the title “Best of Fest: People’s Choice Award.” Local eateries participating include The Would Restaurant, Vigneto’s Café, Wagon Wheel Deli, Coppola’s Ristorante, River Station, Mahoney’s Irish Pub & Steak House and P&G’s.

Along with the chili, there’ll be hot dogs and chips available, roasted chestnuts, toasted marshmallows at a bonfire, coffee, hot cocoa and bottled water.

Any excess calories consumed can be walked off on the Rail Trail, of course, and the festivities also offer a chance to check out the old caboose located alongside the Pavilion, which will be open to visitors that day. HVRTA board member Raphael Diaz says that the caboose is one of a series first built in 1915 with a steel body, replacing older cabooses that were wooden and prone to fire. It was donated to the Rail Trail Association by Ethan Jackman, former Highland businessman and historical society president.

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