Winterfest on the Hill embraces the elements with seasonal food, festivities

By: K. Michelle Moran, | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 29, 2014

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — The weather outside this January has been frightful, but Winterfest on the Hill promises to make the great outdoors delightful. A bigger, better festival is planned for the Farms business district on Kercheval. From 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 1, residents from any community are invited to this free event, which will feature face painting, putt-putt golf through ice carvings, live ice- carving demonstrations, cookie decorating, live music and the DJ services of Jason Parent, and games such as football toss, hockey puck shooting and corn hole. New this year are appearances by members of The Parade Company’s Big Head Corps — the large papier mâché heads seen in the Thanksgiving Day parade downtown — and cuddly critters from Carousel Acres Petting Farm. Parks and Recreation Director Richard Huhn said in an email interview that officials estimate past Winterfests have brought about 2,000 visitors to the Hill. After a successful visit last year, a representative from the Howell Conference and Nature Center will again be on hand with live local animals for an educational presentation from 1-2 p.m. at the Kercheval Avenue Stage. Woody the groundhog will return, but she won’t be making predictions about spring’s arrival — she doesn’t do that until Groundhog Day, Feb. 2. “It was pretty popular last year,” City Manager Shane Reeside said of the nature center presentation. A number of businesses will have door-prize drawings, and people can fill out entry forms inside participating locations. Hungry visitors can enjoy complimentary chili dogs, hot chocolate and coffee, or make s’mores. There will also be a pie-baking contest and chili cook-off. At press time, Huhn said some of the Hill restaurants were talking about possibly setting up outdoor food stations, but that was still undecided. Visitors can also dine inside one of the Hill’s many eateries. “Winter’s here whether you like it or not, so we might as well embrace it,” Reeside said. And the recent cold snap “is perfect for the ice sculptures” and other seasonal activities, he said. Reeside said that in order to create more room for all of the new activities, Kercheval will be closed to traffic between Muir and McMillan from roughly 8 a.m-5 p.m. Feb. 1. Although Kercheval itself will be closed, various parking lots and the parking deck at Henry Ford Medical Center-Cottage will be open. Huhn recommends that visitors try the city parking lot behind businesses such as Rite Aid on the west side of Kercheval. “Parking is free, and they would need to drive in from the south side of Kercheval by Fisher to McMillan,” Huhn said. And speaking of vehicles, Roy O’Brien Ford is a new sponsor this year, and Huhn said the dealership plans to display a few vehicles as part of the festivities. The Farms Public Safety Department hopes to display a couple of its vehicles, as well, and they might have the safety education smoke house on hand, he said. Because most of the activities — aside from the pie and chili contests — are outdoors, attendees should be prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store that day. “People should dress depending upon the weather,” Huhn cautioned. “We will have the Winterfest tent heated at the Richard parking lot, Henry Ford Medical Center will be open with activities, and a lot of the businesses will be open where people can walk in (to) get warm for a short time and enter for a door prize from those businesses. So, there will be multiple areas for people to get out of the cold for short periods.” Winterfest will feature 32 individual ice carvings — a few more than in years past, Huhn said. That includes the two live carving demonstrations, which will take place at the Richard Park Gazebo and the Central Branch of the Grosse Pointe Public Library. There isn’t one particular theme this year, but Huhn said sponsors have been requesting carvings related to the Super Bowl, Winter Olympics and animated characters. In only a few years, Winterfest on the Hill has become a beloved annual tradition for local residents, and organizers hope to once again draw big crowds. “I think the addition of several new activities for people to see and participate in is the most exciting, plus we have several new sponsoring businesses,” Huhn said. “It should give families more reasons to visit the Winterfest and get rid of some of the winter blues. We are just praying for cold but bearable weather.” For more information, call Farms Parks and Recreation at (313) 343-2405 or visit