Winterfest on the Hill is where cool rules

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 29, 2015

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GROSSE POINTE FARMS — If you can’t beat Mother Nature, join her.

That seems to be the idea behind Winterfest on the Hill, an annual afternoon of free fun, food, entertainment and games for all ages that’s open to anyone and runs from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 31 along Kercheval in the Farms business district.

Winterfest on the Hill this year will feature cuddly critters from Carousel Acres Petting Farm, ice-carving displays, live ice-carving demonstrations, ice-carving minigolf, various games, music from DJ Jason Parent, and a presentation from 1-2 p.m. by the Howell Conference and Nature Center, which will once again be bringing animals and talking about their habitats, diets and characteristics.

“The Howell Nature Center will be back this year,” City Manager Shane Reeside said in an email interview. “The Michigan native animals are always a big hit.”

Another big hit with Winterfest visitors is the free food. Besides the chili cook-off starting at 11 a.m., visitors can nosh on chili dogs, hot chocolate, popcorn, coffee and s’mores. Visitors can also stop into any of the Hill’s many restaurants to purchase a meal.

Although Winterfest has drawn as many as approximately 2,000 visitors, typical attendance is around 600-800, said Michele Eickhorst, the recreation and aquatic coordinator for Grosse Pointe Farms. This year, she said all of the Pointes are having their winter festivals on the same day, but Winterfest on the Hill organizers are hoping residents of the other cities will try to fit the Hill event into their day along with their own city’s festival.

Eickhorst said Grosse Pointe Park is trying to make that convenient for residents so, as Eickhorst noted, people “can experience both.”

By email, Park Parks and Recreation Director Terry Solomon said the K-Line Trolley would be transporting visitors for free between Winterfest on the Hill and the Park’s Chilly Fest from noon-4 p.m.

“The trolley will start its loop at McMillan and Kercheval at noon and make its way down Kercheval to Lakepointe, and then to the Tompkins Center at Windmill Pointe Park,” Solomon wrote. “Riders can then get off and participate in the Chilly Fest events.”

Chilly Fest takes place from noon-4 p.m. at Windmill Pointe Park and will include dogsled rides, a snow mound for climbing, ice fishing, snowman building, bouncy inflatables, face painting, Score-O, arts and crafts, balloon creations, stations for massages and manicures, and much more. Food will be available for purchase from Blue Pointe Restaurant in the Tompkins Community Center. The event kicks off with a free screening of the animated film “Monsters University” at 11 a.m. in the Okulski Family Theatre. For more information, visit www.grossepointepark.org.

Many local businesses — a number of them based on the Hill — sponsor Winterfest each year, making the array of free festivities possible. Some of the major sponsors this year include the Farms, Russell Development Company, Dirty Dog Jazz Café and St. John Providence Health System. Face painting — which takes place from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. in two locations — is sponsored by two health systems, with the painting at Henry Ford Medical Center-Cottage sponsored by that facility and the painting at the Central Branch of the Grosse Pointe Public Library sponsored by St. John Providence Health System.

“It is a great community event and good for the businesses on the Hill,” Reeside said.

Visitors to many local businesses can also stop into those establishments between now and Jan. 31 to enter for a chance to win door prizes. Entries will be accepted until 2 p.m. Jan. 31.

Eickhorst said the library is getting more involved this year and will be offering a snowflake craft activity along with face painting.

To make way for Winterfest activities, Kercheval will be closed starting around 7 or 8 a.m. Jan. 31 from Muir to McMillan. However, parking in various Hill lots and the Cottage parking deck will still be available. The city’s municipal parking lot, behind Rite Aid on the west side of Kercheval, will offer free parking that day, Eickhorst said. Visitors can enter that lot from McMillan.

Winterfest is a day many families look forward to, but Eickhorst said adults of all ages have fun, as well, and it’s not unusual to see grown-ups hitting the dance floor in the Winterfest tent or trying their hands at games like minigolf.

“It’s for the whole family,” she said. “There’s a lot of different things that the adults can do (and) the kids can do.”

Whether it’s been raining or snowing, Winterfest on the Hill has consistently drawn big crowds. Although there are warming areas, Eickhorst said people should dress for the cold and wear comfortable footwear.

“Be prepared to be outside and enjoy the weather,” she said.

For more information, call Farms Parks and Recreation at (313) 343-2405 or visit grosse pointefarms.org.

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