The Usual Thaw (Just in Time for the Cherry Capital Winter Wow!fest)

Saturday's Frozen Bed Race -- a Wow!fest Favorite 
Saturday’s Frozen Bed Race — a Wow!fest Favorite


It happens every February. For a brief few days, the weather turns warm and windy – just long enough to fool everyone into thinking that winter is past, and to irritate those of us who still aren’t ready to say goodbye to the snow. We’ve been around long enough to know that the cold weather will return – we just want to make sure we can still enjoy ourselves outdoors when it does.

Here in Traverse City, of course, we’re all looking forward to the start of the Cherry Capital Winter Wow!fest this week. The Wow!fest is a celebration of  music, food, and fun that takes place each year on the President’s Day Weekend. There’s so much going on that we couldn’t fit it all into a single location — so there are events and activities happening all around the Traverse City area. (Best of all, most of them are absolutely free!)

Festival regulars will be glad to know that many of their favorites will be back from previous years. For instance, the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa’s “Winter Fun Zone” will still have the traditional selection of  rides on ponies, snowmobiles and horse-drawn sleighs as well as sledding, ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing.

 There’s also a selection of competitive events that range from the familiar (the Frosty 5K Foot Race and a kid’s snowshoe race) to the unlikely (ever hear of the Frozen Fish Toss?). There are bonfires, films, live music, fireworks, and lots of festive food and beverages. And this year, the Winter Fun Zone features a little something extra: a Sunday afternoon parade of vintage snowmobiles.

 Nearby at the Mt. Holiday Ski Area, they’re returning with popular competitions like the Downhill Dash race down the ski hill (on skis, snowboards, even bikes), a “Big Air” Championship, and the Cardboard Bobsled-o-Rama in which competitors must use sleds made only with cardboard, tape and paint. And the Saturday co-ed Snowball Softball Tournament, sponsored by Blue Care Network of Michigan, will return to the Grand Traverse County Civic Center for a second year, hosting teams from across the state of Michigan on four neighboring diamonds in this ASA-sanctioned tournament, which will feature a beer tent (sponsored by H. Cox & Son/Bud Light) and other concessions.

 But there are big changes in store for 2011. Most of the events that were once held on Front Street in downtown Traverse City are being moved to a brand-new venue just across the river. The new “Celebration Central” area (along the Grandview Parkway between Cass and Union streets, where the Farmers Market is held during the summer and fall months) will host such popular Wow!fest events as the Grand Beach/Sugar Beach Frozen Bed Race, the Brain Freeze, the Pit Spit, the Northern Michigan Veterinary Hospital Monster Dog Pull and the beloved Munson Medical Center Soup’r Bowl” competition (where you get to slurp up soups created by our best local chefs and cast ballots for your favorite!)

Best of all, the new venue is going to be the site of some awesome new events. On Friday night, for instance, the festival will begin with a new wine, food, art, and entertainment reception called Winter, Wine & Wow! Saturday will feature the  EpicHappens Downtown Throwdown Rail Jam with special guest appearances by Danny Kass and The Dingo. This day-long ski/board competition (on a specially made 30-foot snow hill trucked in and built on site) will show off the talent of some of the youngest riders to the most experienced. There’ll be arena seating, and no admission charges!

 Meanwhile the folks from Shanty Creek Resorts will be creating a special Snow Park and Tubing Hill to introduce families to the joy of snow tubing! All day and into the night, you’ll also be able to enjoy refreshing beverages, food and live entertainment under the big heated tent.

Since the new venue is just a short walk from the Front Street shopping district, attendees will be able to enjoy all these exciting new events without giving up the convenience of nearby shops and restaurants. The downtown district will continue to host several favorite attractions, including its   “Sweetheart of a Sale” promotion, horse and carriage rides, and the popular avenue of ice sculptures.

And it’ll all be happening no matter what kind of weather we get this week!

(Want more information? Check out their website at and their Facebook Page at!/pages/Traverse-Citys-Winter-WowFest/146902325347369)


About mikelovestc

These days, I’m the media relations guy for the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, but before that I spent 25 years as a reporter and columnist at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a job that frequently took me out into the most remote backroads, forests, beaches and islands of the beautiful Grand Traverse Region. My strategy was pretty simple — just drive, paddle, ski or walk until you’re certain you’re lost, and then find somebody to talk to. It was a great job! I never intended to live in Traverse City. I grew up in Grand Rapids, spent four years in the Coast Guard in places like Miami Beach, Monterey and San Francisco, and when I finally graduated from college I took a summer job at the Miami Herald. To my surprise, I discovered I didn’t like the tropics nearly as much as I thought I would — and when the Record-Eagle offered me a job I took it, figuring I’d put in a year or two and head off to someplace like Seattle or Portland. What I discovered very quickly is that this place gets to you in a variety of unexpected ways. The beaches here are as lovely as anyplace else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
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