Carnival Returning Next Month

Carnival Returning Next Month

By DANIEL FRANCIS
COOPERSTOWN

Now in its 55th year, the Cooperstown Winter Carnival blows back into our community on the cold, wintery winds that February brings year in and year out. Luckily, the volunteer-based Winter Carnival Committee has plans to warm the spirits of carnival goers with both fresh and familiar offerings throughout the duration of this year’s event.

After what felt like an eternity, albeit just two years of dormancy, the Winter Carnival returns during the first week of February. Kicking off on Thursday evening, February 2 with hot chocolate-fueled fireworks over a lakeside viewing party at The Otesaga Resort Hotel—and continuing until Sunday, February 5 with “Grilled Cheese for a Good Cause”—there is plenty fun and enjoyment to be had by all who attend. The schedule includes such fan-favorites as “The Bob Smullens 5K/10K Race” and the “Lions Club Pancake Breakfast,” as well as first-time additions “Meet Your Local Heroes” and “Open Pickleball Play.”

This year’s carnival finds its theme in the expression, “There’s Snow Place Like Home,” delivering a sense of homecoming for the event as well as the community it serves. A focus, and emphasis, on the community not just as an institution, but also a living and evolving entity, was at the forefront of the committee’s planning.

“I’m hoping that people come out. I hope that a lot of people who are new to the community will come out and meet new people,” explained committee member Keith Gulla in professing aspirations for his first Winter Carnival experience.
Gulla, who has lived in Cooperstown for about two years, understands the importance of a sense of community. This is what propelled him to seek out the carnival committee and become one of its many dedicated members.

“Without even finishing this one [this year’s event], I already feel the impact within the community, and the feedback has been wonderful,” Gulla added.

The sense of the Cooperstown Winter Carnival as a communal melting pot has always been linked to its core, even if sometimes only as a byproduct of enjoying the hustle and bustle the four-day seasonal celebration has to offer.

Angus Mackie, Coopers-town Winter Carnival chairperson of 1972, said his best carnival memory was the feeling of excitement in town.

“Everybody said ‘hi’ to each other and there was a lot of stuff to do,” he recalled.

Mackie’s sentiments—greetings amongst fellow carnival goers, both familiar and unfamiliar, and there being lots to do—are shared by almost anyone you speak to about the carnival. Another common thread is the annual support from businesses and organizations stepping up to lend a helping hand, whether as a venue, a supplier of resources, or to provide shelter for those seeking respite from the cold.

“The whole village got behind it,” said Hank Phillips, chairperson of the first Cooperstown Winter Carnival Committee in 1968.

Nancy Angerer, both a past and present member of the planning committee, expressed her gratitude—and likely that of many others—by summarizing, “Our community as a whole, the merchants and businesses, are so gracious. They don’t get enough accolades for how good they are.”

Marcy Birch, also a past and present committee member, explained, “There’s a lot of history in this event, and a lot of community members through the generations have participated.

“People want to see it continue,” Birch said.

The Cooperstown Winter Carnival is a staple of the village, owing to its rich and significant history, and the motivation and soul behind this popular winter gathering has remained unchanged year after year—the desire to have fun.
Fun was “baked” into the Winter Carnival at its inception and has proven to be an essential ingredient to its continued success and preservation.

“We wanted to get some fun in the wintertime,” explained Phillips.

Ed Hobbie, Cooperstown Winter Carnival chairperson of 1971, echoed this thought when asked what had motivated him to step up as event chair.

“I just wanted to be involved. And we had a lot of fun. Oh, my Gosh, we had a lot of fun,” Hobbie said.

Phillips and Hobbie were instrumental in the organization of the Cooperstown Winter Carnival during its early, formative years. Their stories, their motivations, and their advice for future generations over the years have all revolved around the act of having fun.

Embarking on its 55th year, the Cooperstown Winter Carnival is proof positive that when an invested and involved community comes together to beat the winter doldrums, the results are well worth repeating.


The 2023 Cooperstown Winter Carnival Committee includes, from left: Keith Gulla, Nancy Angerer, Larissa Ryan, Marcy Birch, Cay Franck and Carina Franck. Committee members not present: Caspar Ewig, Tom Farkas and Claire Kepner. According to organizers, one of the central ideals in the formation of this committee was that no chairperson(s) be appointed, promoting a level ground for members to share ideas and information as well as provide an equal sense of responsibility in the production of the event. (Photo by Terry Seamon)

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