Ice Ice Baby
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Monday, January 30, 2017
By Austin Rese
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Bears hibernate. Humans hibernate. The difference? We tend to enjoy a break from being “hole up” in our homes. Cabin-fever can be an annual occurrence for those living in a cold winter climate. A basic tenet for relief is being out and about with others. This past weekend, I had the good fortune to do just that: The 19th annual Winterfest in Blowing Rock.


Perched in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Blowing Rock is a village abundant with charm-no matter the season. Its enclave of boutique shops, restaurants, and cultural exposes are all merely support for the feature attraction: the beauty of nature. Winterfest applauds this splendor, providing a catalog of activities located both indoors-and-out.  I knew that I was in for a treat. I was not disappointed.


All the way up the mountain there was not a flake of snow in sight. Magically, the moment I passed the town’s city limits, it began to snow! Soon, the sidewalks, rooftops, and pavement were covered. As it was evening, the streetlamps set the frozen precipitation aglisten. My heart raced with the excitement of a child. Hurriedly, I checked into the hotel. Then, in layered raiment, I set out to experience it all.



Although I had missed the unveiling of this year’s ice sculptures, I knew with the air hovering at 25 degrees, there wasn’t any chance of them melting.  Thus, in the blowing snow, I made my way down the nearly-deserted Main Street to view them. Amazing! Each block of frozen H2O had been transformed into a work of art by Master Ice Carver Travis Dale. The creations were illuminated by the backdrop of a pub, restaurant, or business. In addition, garlands of white lights adorned the village as if holding on to the spirit of Christmas. It made for a feeling of festivity.

A most anticipated event of this festival is the Polar Plunge. This rather waggish sport occurred within the frigid waters of the lake at Chetola Resort. The abundant crowd assembled quite early to procure the best possible seat from which to snap their cameras. What a hoot it was! Down the hill the participants marched to the sounds of the Olympic chorus piped over massive speakers. One could only stand in amazement as the scantily clad “athletes” assembled on the dock—many holding toilet bowl plungers like Olympic torches… This is not entirely an act of insanity. -- Before each jump, the participant announced the charitable cause they were sponsoring. It was a sight to behold. The last individual to jump was an 82 year old man. Bless his heart.


Other activities of interest included: hayrides, ice carving demonstrations, a silent auction to benefit the Mountain Alliance, Chilly Chili Cook-off, and the Winter Paws dog Show. Counting the large number of fellow adventurers, it was a most successful event.


This day of winter reverie was crowned by a plate of comfort cuisine served at Chestnut Grille inside the historic Green Park Inn. This circa 1891 establishment is the last remaining “Grand Manor Hotel” in western North Carolina. Dinner was serenaded by the Todd Wright Quartet featuring jazz classics. Such soulful sounds, combined with the ambiance of the room, easily transported you to the speakeasy era. One could nearly hear the laughter and conversations of the many bygone guests.


I slept well that night.


The following morning, just as I got back into my car to return down the mountain, it began to snow again. It beckoned me to continue my sojourn. I chuckled to myself.  Although the child in me wanted to stay, I began my journey home.


This was the perfect cure for the winter doldrums. My calendar is marked for next year.



This was A Moment in America.


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