GRAVENHURST - Finally winter has struck with fervor and it’s time to button up.
Sporting their special Gravenhurst Winter Carnival scarves, Mayor Paisley Donaldson (left) purchases the first 2013 Winter Carnival admission button from volunteer organizing committee chair Marg McLaughlin. Buttons are now on sale through volunteers and local businesses for the festival that runs Feb. 22-24 in conjunction with the fourth annual Chainsaw Carving Event for the first time this year.
By Neil Etienne
The annual Gravenhurst Winter carnival is quickly approaching and admission buttons are now on sale from volunteers and through local business. Best of all for 2013, the carnival will be expanding and is joining forces with another popular winter festival.
The fourth annual Muskoka Chainsaw Carving Event, created and organized by local carver John Kerr, is expanding this year and will run in conjunction with the Gravenhurst Winter Carnival, also now in its fourth year since being re-introduced after a long hiatus.
Carnival volunteer committee chair Marg McLaughlin is calling it the perfect marriage of winter events and one that could see several more thousand visitors than the town’s traditional winter festival.
McLaughlin said all 2,500 buttons were sold last year and with a few additional people coming through the festival, she said the carnival itself can draw upwards of 3,000 people to town each year. By joining forces with the chainsaw event that draws similar numbers each year thus far, organizers expect some 5,500 people could be taking in the festivities that weekend.
“The goal of the Gravenhurst winter carnival is to provide residents and visitors with a weekend of fun and entertainment that’s going to leave a lasting impression,” she said, adding the added carnival events and joining forces with the chainsaw event should leave an impression like never before.
The carnival will be spread throughout the town, including on the main street, by the wharf and on Lake Muskoka should the weather co-operate. Severn Bridge will host the annual demolition derby and the chainsaw events will likely be held at Gull Lake, although that is still in the works.
McLaughlin said also new to the carnival this year will be a country dance in the Terry Fox Auditorium of the Centennial Centre on the Friday night and a swing dance on the Saturday night.
Festivities will begin on the Friday evening with an opening ceremony, followed by an annual firefighters versus OPP broomball game and a broomball tournament on the main street Saturday. There will be snow yoga this year on the main street as well along with the traditional events like arm wrestling, a polar bear dip, bed races, snowmobile radar runs and indoor rowing races.
“We haven’t got the whole schedule set yet, but it is pretty full,” McLaughlin added.
The Chamber of Commerce is hoping to install an outdoor skating rink at the south end of Kinsmen Park where they also hope a snow-carving replica of the front end of the Segwun will be constructed as well.
Town event’s facilitator and marketing assistant Amy Taylor said the economic spin off could be substantial with the two events joining forces.
She said based on 2,500 attendees at the carnival each year, it can generate upwards of $250,000 in economic spinoff for the town. With the two working in conjunction and an estimated 5-5,500 people, the impact could double to $500,000 in the three days.
“It’s a great winter event and has excellent economic spinoff,” she said.
Carnival admission buttons are on sale throughout town and from committee volunteers already for $5 each. Proceeds from the button sales help fund the events. If anyone would like more information about the carnival, to see a complete schedule or to volunteer or sponsor events, check out gravenhurstwintercarnival.ca. For more information about the chainsaw portion, check out muskokacarvingevent.com, backyardstuff.net or contact Kerr at 705-205-1450.