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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Constructing a snowy rampart during Fort Atkinson's SnowFORT festival. © Fort Atkinson Chamber of Commerce
Constructing a snowy rampart during Fort Atkinson's SnowFORT festival. © Fort Atkinson Chamber of Commerce

December 2001

Wisconsin Traveler
Some like it cold

How to warm up to a Wisconsin winter.

In the bleak mid-winter...Wisconsinites shrug off the chill and get on with the good things in life. We savor those nose-nipping days when the thermometer heads south. We thrive on wind chill factors and frozen gas lines. We flourish in soggy socks and damp mittens, darn it!

Some like it cold, and that would be us, hey.

Folks up North just can't get enough of the hard chilly stuff, it seems. Here's one example: The day after Christmas, the volunteer firemen of Eagle River put their hoses and pick axes to a different use and begin building an ice palace in the center of town. Construction of the crystalline edifice takes about a week. The 20-foot-tall palace, festooned with lights and landscaped with pines, even has a grand ice throne for visiting royalty such as yourself. Enjoy a palace tour – but don't lick any of the walls or furniture or your tongue may have to stay behind. The ice palace will stand, weather permitting, through March 31. 1-800-359-6315.

2002 will get off to a lively start in Door County when the residents of Egg Harbor invite everyone to join in their New Year's Day Parade. The festive people's procession starts at 1 p.m. sharp and will go on rain, shine, sleet or snow. Organizers say you never know who or what you'll see marching down Egg Harbor's streets. Don't let this parade pass you by! The only parading prerequisite is a warm pair of walking boots. (920) 868-2120.

Some Wisconsin residents won't even bother wearing boots on the first of the year. These intrepid souls find the state's winter waters especially congenial for a quick inaugural dip. "Polar bear" swimmers brave the chill depths to raise funds for charity (and be featured on the evening TV news). View a polar bear plunge in Lake Michigan on January 1st at noon in Jacksonport (920) 823-2231 and at 1 p.m. in Sheboygan (920) 452-6443. The icy dip in Phillips' Long Lake starts at 1 p.m. (715) 339-3927. Food, music and general fun and foolery accompany all three swims.

Were you a kid who fervently wished for snow and more snow, great huge fluffy drifts that could be patted and pummeled into secret winter hideaways? Return to that childhood pleasure in Fort Atkinson during SnowFORT, January 18-20. The winter festival features snow fort building competitions, guided snowshoe walks, cross-country skiing, a chili cook-off, and entertainment for the young and young at heart. 1-888-SEE-FORT.

Let us move from the utilitarian to the sublime, from snow forts to snow fantasies. Two major snow sculpting events will delight travelers this winter. During the U.S. International Snow Sculpting Competition, three-person teams from 15 nations carve 5-ton blocks of snow in hope of recognition from spectators and a team of judges led by the president of the International Sculpting Association, Juhani Lillberg of Finland (where they know snow). The event runs from January 22-26 in West Allis. (414) 476-5573. A little later in the month, Winterfest and the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition open in Lake Geneva. From January 30-February 3, sculptors will shape 10-foot snow blocks while visitors can enjoy an overhead view of the snowy creations from hot air balloons and air boats. 1 800-345-1020.

Finally, what could be more satisfying than a winter day in Burlington, Wisconsin – better known as Chocolate City, USA? The city hosts Chilly Chocolate Day on January 26 to remind us chocolate is good to eat at any time of the year. (But you already knew that.) Take in an ice carving demonstration, join in a snow goose egg hunt, sample the entries in a chili-cooking contest, and savor chocolate in all its splendiferous forms. (262) 763-6044.