NORTH ADAMS -- Hot chocolate, roasted marshmallows, ice sculptures and chowder. These things and many more at Saturday's sixteenth annual WinterFest provided city residents with a cure for the winter blues.
"Based on the supplies we went through I'd comfortably say attendance was in the thousands," Veronica Bosley, the city's director of tourism and community events, said. She also estimated attendance for this year's event was higher than last year's, most likely a combination of milder weather and more events.
A popular addition to this year's event was a community campfire on Holden Street. The Department of Public Works, Fire Department and Police Department all assisted with the fire, Bosley said.
"They really crafted logistics on how to create a safe fire downtown. They put sand down so it didn't damage the pavement," she said.
City councilor Lisa Blackmir, while handing out marshmallows and roasting sticks to young attendees, said the community campfire was a positive experience.
"I love that people are coming down here with their families," she said, adding that the fire gives people a chance to warm up while they are downtown.
This year saw the return of horse-drawn carriage rides by Sweet Brook Farm of Williamstown, sponsored by Hoosac Bank. The rides were scheduled for last year's event, Bosley said, but weather conditions made it unsafe to hold them.
All along Main Street, attendees were able to grab complimentary hot chocolate and cookies, have their faces painted, and watch in awe as residents sculpted large blocks of ice into magnificent creations.
Brothers Bob and Bill St. Pierre, and their respective sons Luke and Noah, worked to carefully sculpt a windmill out of ice.
"We're having a blast," Bill St. Pierre said. "None of us have ever done this before. But, we knew how to use tools, so figured we'd give it a shot."
Children stopped to closely inspect Phil Sellers' sculpture. Sellers drilled holes at different angles in the ice and squirted food coloring into each one, creating the illusion that confetti was suspended in the block of ice.
Keith Bona, city councilor and owner of Berkshire Emporium, sculpted for the fourth year in a row.
"This year I wanted to do something in memory of Michael DeMarsico, something patriotic," he said, referring to the 20-year-old North Adams native who was killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan in August. His sculpture of a bald eagle received many nods from attendees.
Attendees also got the chance to try different types of chowder. Representatives from nine restaurants and organizations ladled out their chowders to long lines of attendees as a panel of "celebrity judges" picked their top three.
Robert Beuth, executive chef at Hops & Vines in Williamstown, said the reaction to his buffalo chicken chowder was very positive. It's best with the addition of crumbled bleu cheese, he said: "I've heard people say it's like drinking a chicken wing."
Kate Schilling, who owns The Hub in North Adams with her husband Matt, gave attendees a friendly warning before they tasted their bayou crawfish and corn chowder.
"It's got a little spice to it," she said.
Other activities throughout the day included a Zumba class and events at the North Adams Public Library and Western Gateway Heritage State Park. The day ended with a night of free ice skating at the North Adams Skating Rink.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said it was amazing to see so many different parts of the community come together for one event.
"These things really show what kind of community we are," he said.
To reach Edward Damon, email