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Winter – when innumerable layers of wool and Thinsulate constrict the body, and early-onset darkness cruelly compresses the soul – is the best time of year to expand your mind. Take a look at what folks around the world do for fun, or re-examine your view as to what constitutes a winter sport. Wisconsin offers ample opportunities to do both.
Each year the International Arts Festival in Milwaukee celebrates a different culture. Last year, the Scandinavian countries took center stage. This year? More Scandinavian culture! Rest assured you'll be able to enjoy musical performances, art exhibits, films, and food at different locations all around the city. Organized by the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, the festival runs from Feb. 1 – March 31. Call (414) 273-7206 or visit Marcus Center for the Performing Arts for a calendar of events and ticket information.
Madison's annual Kites on Ice will brighten the winter sky with colorful flights of fancy kites on Feb. 1-2 at the Monona Terrace Convention Center. This year's kite fest focuses on the different styles of kites crafted across the globe in China, Japan, Germany, New Zealand and other countries. Create your own high-flier in a kite-making workshop and get tips on flying kites not only outdoors, but indoors as well. (Watch out for those ceiling fans.) The synchronized kite flying performances promise to thrill all visitors with breathtaking feats of aerial derring-do. Call (608) 241-1930 for the festival schedule.
The residents of Gilman in Taylor County don't let the snow drift around their ankles, no sir. TRAVELER suspects this doughty little community hosts its Sniegfest simply to chortle in the face of Old Man Winter. This is the place where you can roll a few frames in an ice-bowling tournament, spank a spike in a snow volleyball match, and compete in a blind snowmobile race. (Yes, you read that correctly.) More prosaic events include snow sculpting, horse-drawn sleigh rides, a scavenger hunt, and a grand torchlight parade. Join in the fun on Feb. 1-2. (715) 447-8285.
Not to be outdone by Gilman, Elkhart Lake invites all to Schnee Days, Feb. 1-2, featuring winter golf and downhill bowling (Tip: Don't stand at the bottom of the hill or you might be mistaken for a pin.). Feast at the chili cook-off, make a couple of visits to the dessert table, and don't forget your skates – an ice rink will be open for you to throw that perfect triple axel. See Elkhart Lake or call 1-877-355-4278.
Gilman and Elkhart Lake, step aside for Wisconsin Dells, where the 13th annual Flake Out Festival on Jan. 18-19 will host the most challenging, demanding and inspirational of all the new winter competitions: The Eskimo Pie-eating contest. (Someday this one is going to be an Olympic sport. You read it here first.) Mitten football, turkey bowling, snowman making, hot air balloons, pony rides, snow and ice sculpting and more will be available for those who do not scream for ice cream, especially in January. For festival details and information on the nutritional content of an Eskimo Pie, visit Wisconsin Dells or call 1-800-223-3557.
Make snowshoes and learn how to use them. Track a wolf. Learn how to light a fire without matches or a Zippo. Brush up on the basics of botany, or bring yourself up to speed with the latest developments in urban forestry. UW-Extension publishes Environment 2002/2003, a biannual listing of environmental education courses, events and workshops for adults held around the state. For a copy, write Environmental Course Opportunities, Environmental Resources Center, School of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin–Cooperative Extension, 1450 Linden Drive, Room 216, Madison WI 53706.