CHESTER, Vt. – On the weekend of Feb. 19 and 20, 2022, Chester celebrated their annual Winter Carnival in the midst of harsh winds and flurrying snow. Despite the inclement weather, people of all ages could be seen walking from the horse-drawn sleigh rides up by the baseball diamond, down to the parking lot to get hot cocoa and hot dogs, and then over to the field nearby for the snowmobile demos. According to Lee Whiting, one of the organizers of the Festival and a resident of Andover, it was a “good turnout, kind of what we expected.”
License plates from Connecticut, Maine, New York, Massachusetts, and, of course, Vermont, could be seen dotting the Pinnacle, where the carnival took place, but, according to Donna Hedkins of Smokeshire Farms, this festival is more for the locals. As she and her husband, Peter Hedkins, readied Betsy and Clarke, the two horses pulling the sleigh, for their next trip through the woods, Donna Hedkins spoke to the lasting power of the Festival and its roots in the community. Anyone in attendance could see the truth in this, as children hiked up through snow in sub-freezing temperatures to sled down the hill, and parents cheered their kids on as the winds whipped at clothing and the snow piled up.
The pride that residents of the historic town of Chester found in their community was clear, and as Stan Choiniere, President of the Chester Snowmobile Club, grilled burgers and hot dogs under a tent that did little to keep out the elements, he pointed to the baked goods that Vicky, Georgia, and Connor Mustoe, new owners of the Stone Hearth Inn, had provided. “The snowmobile club is here to support the event, orchestrate the snowmobile rides, and host the food to supplement the festival,” Choiniere said as he handed two cups of hot chocolate to a nearby couple. To his right, families lined up to see their kids ride miniature snowmobiles, and to his left, a group of locals swept the ice skating rink for some impromptu hockey.
At 3 p.m., Jeff Day of Ice Designs in New Hampshire took a chainsaw to a block of ice and began sculpting a Santa Claus out of a three hundred pound hunk of ice before a crowd of onlookers. Several people sipped lattes bought from Southern Pie Company across the road as they watched Day carve ice blocks. “Each of these takes three days to create,” Day noted.
At 4:30 p.m., people could be seen in the Village Green lighting fire sculptures, and at 5 p.m. there was a guided snowshoe hike on the Brookside Trail, overlooking the town.
On Feb. 20, the following morning, there was a broom hockey game at the Pinnacle, where spectators cheered on their teams and concessions were sold by the GMUHS Booster Club. Despite the cold, the wind, and the snow, the Chester Winter Carnival brought visitors from around New England, across Vermont, and throughout Chester together for a weekend that boasted broad smiles and, yes, some wet socks.