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Snowtown USA may live up to its name when it kicks off tonight


The organizers of the new version of Snowtown USA won’t have to worry about the lack of wintry weather.

The forecast for the six-day festival shows a mixed bag of wintry weather, including snow showers, single-digit and below-zero temperatures, and some of the white stuff is already on the ground.

And that makes Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin E. Gardner relieved, if not happy.

“It’s going to be a bit chilly,” she said. “But people will dress accordingly and will come out to enjoy themselves.”

A popular midwinter festival in Watertown during the 1980s and 1990s, the rebooted version of Snowtown USA will feature 34 family-oriented events and activities, beginning with New Year’s Eve fireworks tonight and culminating with closing ceremonies Sunday.

On Monday, organizers — Parks Department staff, the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce and others — were putting together some final touches on the festival, which pays homage to the north country’s wintry weather.

While they were solidifying plans for volunteers and continuing to look for cash donations. Mrs. Gardner got some good news — the outdoor ice rink at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds is in better shape than what she thought from mild temperatures on Sunday, she said.

Organizers have brought in about $7,000 in donations from sponsors and individuals to cover the costs of the festival, said Lynn M. Pietroski, CEO of the Greater Watertown North Country Chamber of Commerce.

“I think there’s lots of interest and it’s going to be a great resurrection,” she said.

Remnants of last weekend’s ice storm will not interfere with any of the events, Mrs. Gardner said. To avoid broken limbs and trees, some activities at Thompson Park will be moved to other parts of the park, she said.

Tonight’s fireworks at the fairgrounds will start at 6 p.m. Organizers are requesting festival goers use both the city and YMCA parking lots at the fairgrounds and not park in lots of nearby businesses.

Two New Year’s Eve parties also will be held this evening. Most events are free.

The idea for the reboot came after a group of city residents remembering the festival began to comment on Facebook last summer that it would be great to bring it back.

During its heyday, the 10-day festival that let residents thumb their noses at Old Man Winter featured snow sculpture competitions, hockey tournaments, an open skating rink at the Park Circle and other events.

“CBS Evening News” anchor Walter Cronkite actually coined the phrase “Snowtown USA.” A few years later, organizers used it for the name of the new festival.

A full schedule of events can be found at

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