by Jeff Eason
And for the past 16 years, folks in the mountains have been kind enough to share their unique winter situation with people from all over during Blowing Rock's annual WinterFest celebration.
This year's event, presented by the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled for Jan. 23 to 26 and promises to be the biggest and best yet.
The 16th annual Blowing Rock WinterFest kicks off this Thursday, Jan. 23.
If shopping is one of the things you love to do while visiting Blowing Rock, WinterFest has just the deal you are looking for. A number of shops and boutiques in downtown Blowing Rock and at Tanger Shoppes on the Parkway have special "Shop 'til You Drop" bargains during the four days of WinterFest.
On Jan. 23, fans of fine dining will gather at Timberlake's Restaurant at Chetola Resort for WinterFeast. The annual dinner will feature a buffet-style meal where diners sample some of the finest culinary creations from a number of area restaurants.
This year's participating restaurants include Timberlake's, Rowland's at Westglow, The Table at Crestwood, The Best Cellar, The Laurel Room at the Green Park Inn, Canyons of the Blue Ridge, Meadowbrook Inn and Foggy Rock Eatery and Pub.
Tickets for WinterFeast are $25 in advance and $30 at the door (if available). Seatings are at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. To reserve tickets, call (828) 295-7851.
After your WinterFeast meal, join your friends at Foggy Rock Eatery and Pub at 8180 Valley Blvd. for the Winter Ales Craft Tasting. The event will feature a wide variety of North Carolina winter ales, presented by their distributors. For more information, call Foggy Rock at (828) 295-7262.
Friday's WinterFest celebration kicks off with a brand new event. The WinterFashions Show will be held at the Meadowbrook Inn (711 Main St.), beginning at 11 a.m. Models will be strutting their stuff, wearing fashions from Doncaster, Monkee's, J.W. Tweeds, Sister Act, TazMaRaz, Celeste's, the Fig Leaf and Almost Rodeo Drive. Admission is $25 and features "winter warming" lunch and fashion show of winter and spring wear from the ladies shops in Blowing Rock. To reserve tickets, call (828) 295-4300.
Blowing Rock School's PTO will host a special spaghetti dinner and bingo event on Friday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Join your friends in the school cafeteria for a $5 spaghetti dinner that includes meat or vegetarian spaghetti, salad, rolls and drink. Then walk to the school's gymnasium for $1 bingo cards that could win you all kinds of valuable prizes. All of the proceeds from the event will benefit ongoing and future projects at Blowing Rock School.
To help celebrate WinterFest, the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum (159 Chestnut St.) is offering discounted admission of $3 per person all weekend long. Currently, the museum features the main floor exhibit, "The Painted Song: The Art of Wiili Armstrong," "The History of the Ski Industry in the High Country" exhibit in the Historic Artifacts Gallery and the Watauga High School Senior Honors Art Show in the Community Meeting Room. For more information, call BRAHM at (828) 295-9099.
The Mountain Cottage at 257 Sunset Drive will be hosting a special WinterFest event on Friday, called "Wine, Cheese and Art!" Come by the gallery from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to see art from local artists and enjoy a glass of wine from Banner Elk Winery. For more information, call (828) 295-4622.
Also on Friday, Twigs (7956 Valley Blvd.) will host a special selection of wine flights in both the bar and restaurant. It will feature more than 20 varieties of wine from around the world. Reservations can be made by calling (828) 295-5050.
On Friday, Appalachian Ski Mountain (940 Ski Mountain Road) will offer special pricing on skiing and snowboard instruction from its world-renowned French-Swiss Ski College. Reservations are required. For more information, call (828) 295-7828. The ski resort will also offer special ice skating packages that include a roaring rinkside bonfire and s'mores.
On Saturday, Mountain Alliance, a program to promote leadership and to bring outdoor activities to local youths, will host the annual WinterFest Raffle and Silent Auction, located in the Blowing Rock School cafeteria. Dozens of items, including trips, ski packages, hotel packages and restaurant packages, will be raffled off, and deals will be available on all sorts of items at a silent auction. Both take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
One of the highlights of WinterFest is the annual Polar Plunge at Chetola Lake. Watch as more than 100 brave souls jump into the frigid lake in an effort to raise money for their favorite charities. Some jumpers will be making their 16th annual plunge, while others will be taking the dip for the first time. The event begins at 10 a.m. at Chetola Resort and is free for spectators.
The High Country Girl Scouts, part of the Peaks to Piedmont chapter of the Girl Scouts of America, will provide a safe and fun day for children on Saturday at the Blowing Rock American Legion Hall.
From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., parents are invited to accompany their children for activities, such as crafts, reading, snowflake decorating and more.
While at the park, take advantage of the free hayrides given through downtown. There will also be free hot chocolate offered in front of the park.
Blowing Rock Realty and SweetGrass will host a cross-country ski and snow equipment demonstration and exhibition at SweetGrass (six miles outside Blowing Rock). The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Enjoy games, prizes, a snow-dog building contest, hot chocolate and cookies. Call (828) 295-9861 for details and directions.
The 16th annual WinterFest Chili Challenge will be held at the Blowing Rock School gymnasium from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, offering festivalgoers a way to get warm - from the inside out! The event features three levels of competition: Professional cooks from restaurants, chili chefs representing area businesses and amateurs will all be competing for prizes. For non-contestants, it's a great way to taste the seemingly infinite ways there are to make chili. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early.
Some of the area's best musicians will be gathering for the WinterFest Saturday Jam Brunch at Canyons (8960 Valley Blvd.). The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and is free.
The U.S. Army Special Forces Ice Carving Team (yes, there is such a thing) will turn blocks of ice into enchanting works of art from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday in Blowing Rock Memorial Park.
The Ice Carving Team is also responsible for building the wine luge that will be on the front yard of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce on Park Avenue on Saturday.
The annual WinterFest Wine Tasting at the Green Park Inn (9239 Valley Blvd.) begins at 2 p.m.
Saturday and will be followed by the WinterFest Wine Auction. The auction will feature a selection of wines and wine-related items.
At dusk, join your friends at the bonfire at Memorial Park to make your own toasted marshmallows or s'mores. All supplies will be provided. Event is weather permitting.
A number of Blowing Rock restaurants will feature special breakfasts and brunches Sunday, Jan. 26, including Knight's on Main, the New Public House and Hotel, Subway and Foggy Rock Eatery and Pub.
Timberlake's will feature a special breakfast buffet with all the trimmings. Canyons will host a WinterFest Sunday Jazz Brunch, featuring Todd Wright and Friends, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. For more information or reservations, call (828) 295-7661.
WinterFest's closing event is the annual WinterPaws Dog Show on Sunday. Bring your furry friend to the Blowing Rock School's gymnasium to compete in a number of categories, such as oldest dog, youngest dog, looks most like owner, etc. Registration begins at 1 p.m., and the dog show begins at 1:30 p.m. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Watauga Humane Society.
For more information on WinterFest, call the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce at (828) 295-7851.