Tonawanda News — Call it a cabin-fever reliever.
The City of Tonawanda Winterfest will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Tonawanda Middle/High School complex on Fletcher Street, marking the fourth year of an event that started — and continues — as a way for families to get out and be active during the coldest time of the year.
“It’s grown. I just picked up the basketball slips and we have maybe 30 teams,” said event chairwoman and founder Elizabeth Olka. “We have a lot to do to schedule this, but it’s good because it’s growing, and I’m pretty happy it’s grown so big.”
This year’s Winterfest, hosted by the Tonawanda Central PTSA in conjunction with the Tonawanda Soccer Club, the City of Tonawanda Youth Board, the DPW and the Recreation Department, will include returning activities such as the three-on-three basketball competition and snow sculpture contest, as well as some new features, such as a three-on-three soccer competition and hockey skills activity.
Other events include a chili cook-off, a Chinese auction featuring 65 to 70 baskets, movies playing in the auditorium, free swim time in the pool, crafts and games.
Winterfest started in 2011 when PTSA members approached then-recreation director Linda Foels and then-Mayor Ron Pilozzi about starting a seasonal event, Olka said.
“It was, ‘What can we do for these kids in the wintertime?’ The city’s always been helpful with this,” she said. “That’s how it began. It started simply because there’s not much for us to do in the wintertime here.”
What has made the event manageable during its growth has been the addition of other community organizations to the mix, Olka said. The Youth Board will be presenting this year’s chili cook-off, while the Boys & Girls Club will present scooter volleyball and face painting. The Recreation Department will present the crafts and hockey skills components. The National Guard and fire department Explorers will also have a presence.