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Cranberry Lake, Wanakena and Star Lake community leaders to revive Winterfest

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For hotelier and restaurant owner Susan E. Thaller, one of the busiest weeks during the winter is Presidents Day weekend in February.

This year, she and several other business owners and civic leaders in Cranberry Lake, Wanakena and Star Lake are hoping it will be a much bigger weekend, as they all have donated “as much money and time as possible” to reviving the annual Winterfest and changing it to Adirondack Whiteout Weekend.

The wintry outdoor festival dates back to the 1980s, according to Janice L. Lutz, co-owner of Fun Unlimited, a Polaris dealer in Gouverneur who is on the reviving committee.

“In more recent years, there hasn’t been a lot of interest in Winterfest,” Mrs. Lutz said.

Over the years, the February festival that once was a variety of winter activities became a snowmobiling weekend.

“It turned into just snowmobiling because that became so popular,” said Richard F. Kovacs, owner of Wanakena General Store, 6 Hamele St. “But we’re trying to get back to some of the other winter activities to go along with the snowmobiles.”

The Feb. 15 and 16 event will feature cross-country skiing, dog-sled rides, sledding at the Clifton-Fine Municipal Golf Couse, snow sculpting with local students and a water and ice rescue demonstration by the Star Lake Fire Department, as well as snowmobiling.

Organizers also have asked the Ranger School in Wanakena to help with exhibits and demonstrations about winter camping, snow shelter building and ice fishing.

The community centers in Star Lake and Cranberry Lake will be open, as will a central warming tent.

The idea to revive Winterfest began as Ms. Thaller’s idea.

“Last year customers at the hotel asked me what was going on that weekend, but there weren’t really any big events,” she said. “We have a great area, but it’s just kind of quiet.”

Ms. Thaller owns the Stone Manor Motel and Diner, Cranberry Lake, and the Pine Cone Grill and Motel, on Ranger School Road, Wanakena.

She said she wanted to have a large barbecue on Presidents Day weekend at a community pavilion that would be closed up and heated with a wood stove.

When she set up a meeting to present her idea to other business owners in the area and town supervisors, all were enthusiastic, she said.

“If you have a bad winter, you don’t do good business here,” Ms. Thaller said. “We want other reasons for people to come here.”

The people at the meeting formed a committee and have been meeting every two to three weeks to complete all the planning.

Ms. Thaller said membership in the committee quickly grew to 22, and they now have the major planning of the weekend completed, with seven businesses participating.

“We just have some final things to work out,” she said.

Mr. Kovacs said they have to finish some of the schedule, launch the new website, www.adkwow.webs.com, create a logo and design buttons that will be sold in exchange for additional deals to customers and participants.

He said the buttons, sold for $3 each or two for $5, will fund the majority of the weekend.

“We’re trying to get people to come celebrate winter with us in an area that is somewhat economically depressed this time of year,” he said.

Ms. Thaller said the weekend is just as much for the community as it is for out-of-towners on vacation.

“It’s about bringing the families outside during the winter,” she said. “We just thought we’d try to resurrect something.”

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