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Snowtown USA wraps up on a high note

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He may not have been Peter Parker, but “Spider-Man” Ricky J. Natali, 14, guarded his true identity as passionately as a fictional superhero would.

The Dexter resident was one of six costumed characters at the Snowtown USA character breakfast, hosted at Maggie’s on the River Sunday morning.

“Some of them cried,” the masked hero said of the reactions he’d received throughout the morning. “Some cried because they were happy to see me.”

The Marvel Comics golden boy was joined by DC Comics favorites Batman and Superman, as well as the infamous Disney princesses, Belle, Cinderella and Aurora.

“I have been knocked over,” Victoria E. Pacini, Aurora, confessed. “But seeing all the little kids, seeing them in costume and their smiles ... they just seem excited.”

Watertown City Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin E. Gardner estimated at least 250 people attended the event within the first hour and a half.

“It’s been a steady flow of people since 8:45 this morning ... The kids are just, they love it. They’re very excited. A lot of kids are coming dressed in costume, superheroes and princesses,” she said.

The breakfast kicked off the final day of Snowtown USA, a six-day celebration of winter in the north country. Individuals and families filled Maggie’s for a pancake and sausage breakfast. Some came in costume, like 4-year-old Abaigeal Gee, who dressed as Ariel, and others did not, like her older brother, Steven, 5. But it didn’t stop Steven from joining the festivities, if indirectly.

Mr. Natali held the 5-year-old for a photo opportunity.

With his shirt riding up, his mother Crystal Gee laughed, “Were you showing Spider-Man your muscles?”

“We’re trying to do everything with Snowtown USA,” she said once Mr. Natali had left. “Our favorite thing was the fireworks the very first night. We didn’t mean to, but we ended up directly under the fireworks. We went ice skating in our snow boots on that big, empty field.”

“The opening ceremony fireworks were great and this is an amazing success, we’re running out of batter,” said Ms. Gardner.

Snowtown USA was put together on a budget of exclusively donations. Maggie’s on the River donated the use of its facility for the breakfast and several other events, while committee members donated the food. Ms. Gardner said that profits from the event will help fund Snowtown USA next year.

OPTIMISM FOR SNOWTOWNS TO COME

Ms. Gardner did not hesitate to say that from her own perspective, the return of Snowtown USA has been a success.

“For me this is just an amazing success and I think it will continue to be successful throughout the weekends to come as we reschedule everything,” she said.

While the committee has yet to meet and dissect the outcome of the festival’s first year back, Ms. Gardner was willing to weigh in on where she thought things stood.

“We may have it over different times next year. Maybe not a full week over the holiday break, but weekends throughout the winter so that we can try to get in certain events and everybody can participate,” she said.

Several events, such as Thursday’s outdoor events in Thompson Park and a weekend snow softball tournament, were postponed due to poor weather. Other events expected to be held outdoors at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds were moved indoors Wednesday.

“A ton of people came out for that. We had kids playing broomball, you know, 75 percent of those kids have never even heard of broomball and they were having a great time,” recalled Ms. Gardner.

“Yeah, some things have been postponed, but much of that is out of our control. But we’re rolling with the punches,” said Ms. Gardner. “Ninety percent of what was canceled or postponed will be rescheduled.”

When asked if they were planning to do Snowtown again next year, she did not hesitate to say, “absolutely.”

Snowtown USA was organized as a joint effort between the City of Watertown and the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce.

The festival concluded Sunday evening with a torch parade and fireworks at Dry Hill Ski Area.

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