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Sunny Skies: Winterfest attendance strong even without snow, ice

Times Observer photos by Josh Cotton Over 40 people took part in the Polar Plunge at Winterfest on Saturday at Chapman State Park. The Plunge is a fundraiser for the Salvation Army.

Sunny skies with temperatures in the 40s might not seem like ideal conditions for Warren County Winterfest.

But this year’s edition, at Chapman State Park, showed those conditions can result in a successful day.

“All things considering, it’s been steadier than I thought it would be,” Warren County Chamber of Business & Industry Senior Vice President John Papalia said.

Organizers would undoubtedly prefer a foot of snow, ice on the lake and temps to support that.

But they made the best of it.

A group of volunteer firefighters with the North Warren VFD plunged together on Saturday at Chapman State Park.

Though Papalia did acknowledge the oddity that a full playground is at an event in January.

All activities were shifted to the beach side of the park earlier this week. That included the main event tent with food vendors by the dam, food trucks at the beach and sled dogs at the pavilion closest to the campground.

“It is a beautiful day to get out,” Papalia added, speculating that people may have used coming to the park as an opportunity to break up winter and get outside.

“We’ll take the sunshine,” he added.

The favorable conditions also saw an increase in the number of people taking part in one of Winterfest’s signature events — the Polar Plunge, fundraiser for the Salvation Army.

A cardboard dog sled race was coordinated by the Sled Dogs of Smokey Hill group at Winterfest.

This year, 44 people took a dip in the lake, including Park Manager Cody Miller, City of Warren Mayor David Wortman and members of the North Warren Volunteer Fire Department.

“Everybody should try that,” Wortman said on his way out of the lake.

“It’s warmer than last year” was overheard from a past participant.

Salvation Army Major Shane Budd presented awards for the biggest splash, the most creative plunge (a person dressed up as a penguin).

The Warren Area High School Dive Team took home the award for most valuable group, raising the most for someone that wasn’t considered a celebrity.

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