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Published: Tuesday, 1/11/2011

Snow or no, Whitehouse Winterfest set to go in February

By mid-February, cabin fever could be gripping local residents.

Good time to coax folks outdoors, figures Barbara Knisely, Whitehouse's community development coordinator, who hopes residents warm up to the idea of a new cold weather event: the first-ever Whitehouse Winterfest.

Featuring a 5K race, ice carvings, music, food, petting zoo, warming tents, horse-and-carriage rides, and a Snowy Night Light Parade, the event is set for Feb. 12, and Ms. Knisely has her fingers crossed for snow. Lots of snow.

Without snow? The Winterfest will still go on, but it would be tough sledding for some of the planned activities, including cardboard box sled races, snowman building contest, snow angel contest, and snowball throwing contest.

She and other village staff members, who brainstorm ideas for events, had the Winterfest idea to get people out and about in Whitehouse in the season of cold.

By February, "people will be tired of being cooped up and they will be looking for something to do," Ms. Knisely said. The Winterfest, she said, will be a fun, family-oriented event. Registration forms, event times and additional information are available on the village Facebook page and Web site at whitehouseoh.gov/play.

Entries for the parade, including vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians,must be lighted in some fashion. The parade is to step off at 6:30 p.m.

Ms. Knisely was working to schedule some skating events on the ice rink in the Village Park.

Other activities will be at the park and at the sledding hill near the Whitehouse Library. Fest-goers can catch a horse-drawn carriage to the sites, but all are within walking distance, she said.

Winterfest could become an annual event, said Ms. Knisely, who along with other members put on free summer concerts and a car show, in addition to weekly farmers' markets.

Building on those successes, each farmers' market day in 2011 will feature a special event designed to attract people to the village who might not otherwise come for market day, she explained.

For instance, she said the fire department and police department could hold safety days or perhaps 4-H members would set up a petting zoo, she said. Too, she hopes to feature local bands and a magic show with magicians teaching magic to youngsters.

Four free concerts were held last year, and six or eight probably will be held this year.

Two popular events, the car show and an Antiques Roadshow-styled program, will be repeated, she said. Nearly 100 people showed up with antiques for appraisal last summer, she said.

Ms. Knisely was promoted to community development coordinator last July after serving as building and zoning clerk since 2006. The position was created after a communitywide survey conducted door-to-door by council showed residents wanted to have more things to do in the village and at the Village Park, she said.

"We are trying to give them what they asked for," she said.

Ms. Knisely, who works closely with residents, local business owners, various organizations, and council to assure a variety of events are offered, continues as the downtown manager to administer the Community Development Block Grant used to revitalize the downtown district.

She also updates and maintains the village Web site and publishes the quarterly Hometown newsletter.

Josh Torres, president and chief executive officer of the Whitehouse Area Chamber of Commerce, said it is great to have community events, and from the chamber's perspective, he wants to make sure the events are benefitting the majority of businesses downtown.

"Our role is to look out for businesses and the downtown district," he said, adding the chamber also has a social responsibility to the community.

The chamber, which has an extremely strong working relationship with the village and council, will continue to host community events such as the Cherry Fest, fireworks for Founder's Day, and possibly a Fall Fest this year.

The village is seeking volunteers who could help facilitate community events. Areas of volunteerism include musicians, gardeners, construction, general help, and any other areas of expertise residents might have.

To volunteer, contact Village Hall.

To help residents keep track of what's going on in the new year, the village has created a calendar, free to local residents.

Local photographs are included in the calendar, many taken by Ms. Knisely.

For the 2012 calendar, residents are being encouraged to submit photos.

And speaking of photos, visitors during the Winterfest are being encouraged to take photographs that day.

Photos then can be submitted for display as part of a contest to be held later.



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