Syracuse Winterfest

Photos courtesy of Syracuse Winterfest.
Photos courtesy of Syracuse Winterfest.

Organizers offer more than 150 reasons for people to get out and celebrate winter

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Syracuse WinterfestThe 35th annual Syracuse Winterfest (, Feb. 13 to 23), self-billed as  “Syracuse’s Coolest Tradition,” helps Central New Yorkers shake off the winter blahs and embrace the cold and have a good time during the 11-day event.

Centered in Syracuse, the event offers activities for all ages, vendors, live entertainment and food. Organizers said last year about 100,000 people attended, making it the second-largest event in Central New York.

“It creates a venue for events for young and old to get out and enjoy over 150 events,” said Bill Cooper, president of Syracuse Winterfest.

He said that the event occurs during winter break so that more children can enjoy the activities with their parents.

One of the big events is Hammond Jammin’, a free jam session of six to seven groups at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que from noon until 6 p.m., Feb. 23. “A lot of the same people come every year,” said Ann Goehner, secretary-treasurer. “They really look forward to it. As soon as we post it, people are saying they’ve been waiting for the date for it. Some people see some of their friends they don’t see all year long. They can count on seeing people they know who come every year.”

Cooper added that some people come from as far away as Virginia, Canada and Pennsylvania to enjoy Syracuse Winterfest.

“One woman contacted me around Labor Day to confirm the dates,” Goehner said.

The food events in downtown Syracuse include chili and chowder cook-offs, Wing Walk, Sandwich Stroll, Culinary Cruise, and sangria, margarita, cosmopolitan, bloody mary and martini mix-offs. Thankfully, they’re on different dates so you can participate in each.

To burn off some of those calories, Syracuse Winterfest includes plenty of physical activities, including a dance party to kick off the event.

Winter activities abound in CNY during Syracuse Winterfest. If you love ice skating, visit Clinton Square and Sunnycrest Rink in Syracuse. Various areas of recreation offer snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, including Baltimore Woods in Marcellus; Beaver Lake Nature Center in Baldwinsville; Highland Forest in Fabius; Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool; Sunnycrest Park in Syracuse; Green Lakes State Park in Fayetteville; and Four Seasons Ski Center, also in Fayetteville.

If sledding and tobogganing is more your style, head to Highland Forest, Fabius; Long Branch Park, Liverpool; Sunnycrest Park, Syracuse; Burnet Park, Syracuse; Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, Cazenovia; Town of Van Buren Park, Baldwinsville; or Strawberry Hill, Chittenango. If you want to snowboard, tube sled or alpine ski, head to Four Seasons Ski Center in Fayetteville.

Amateur sleuths can test their skills with the 33rd Annual Treasure Hunt.  Local media outlets will offer daily clues for finding the medallion, which is hidden somewhere in a public place in Onondaga County. The person who finds the medallion wins a prize of $2,000.

If you need a break to warm up, many of Syracuse’s museums and galleries are special programs and exhibits during Syracuse Winterfest, including The MOST, Erie Canal Museum, Everson Museum of Art, Onondaga Historical Association Research Center and more. Centro donates bus service to help people to get around from event to event.

Various businesses will host special events and activities. Check the website for a complete itinerary.

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