October 23, 2021

Lack of snow doesn’t damper Winterfest fun

Good time on the green

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Jocelyne McDermott, 3, of Homer, checks out a wolf-and-crescent-moon ice sculpture during Winterfest on Saturday in Homer.

HOMER — Homer’s Village Green really was green, but that didn’t slow the (human) sled dogs. The ice sculptures were beautiful, for a while, but the real spirit of the Homer Winterfest is in the people, not in the snow.

Kids dressed as snowmen, a polar bear and a penguin for the inaugural parade, past ice sculptures of a child sledding, a wolf howling at the moon, a figure skater and a bank logo.

Skating followed on an ice rink, at least until the temperature climbed past 40 degrees. Inside the nearby Homer Elementary School, kids had plenty of games and activities to choose from: a ring toss around a moose antler, ball throwing through snowmen and plinko.

April Neske, of Maryland in Delaware County, watched as her grandchildren made calming bottles out of vegetable oil, food coloring and glitter in the cafeteria. She visits them several times a month, but has never been to Winterfest before.

“I’m looking forward to the face painting,” Neske said.

Out on the Village Green, Jay Reily and his team of Homer firefighters, One Night in Altoona, worked to defend their title in the human dogsled race. Teams pulled sleds a lap around cones on the village green for a $50 prize.

Reily has been coming to Winterfest since he was little, participating in the dogsled race and a chicken wing-eating contest now as a firefighter.

“It’s a bit of fun, friendly competition,” Reily said. “It brings attention to the Village Green. Helps keep our small town on the map.”

The fun was not limited to Main Street. At the Homer Elk’s Lodge on Cortland Street, people could taste beers from local breweries like Cortland Beer Co. and Hopshire Brewing and out of the area breweries like Empire Brewing from Cazenovia and FarmHouse Brewery in Owego.

Dianna Gostinski of Homer was eating wings with her sister, Heather Sargent, her husband Steve and their son Noah. They planned to go to a wine-tasting event when they finished. The Sargents came from Mansfield, Pennsylvania, to visit and it was Gostinski’s first time at Winterfest, having moved to Homer from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania a few months ago.

“I liked the elementary school games the best,” Heather Sargent said. “I would come back just to do that. I wish it was back in my town.”

The decreasing pile of snow didn’t bother the sisters. Gostinski was thankful that it didn’t rain.

“I thought it was funny,” Gostinski said. “It’s Winterfest, it doesn’t look very wintry.”