The snow drifts have returned to Northern New York for as long as anyone can recall.
But the renowned festival that memorializes the regions winter culture has not been held in Watertown since 1997. Thanks to the efforts of local supporters, Snowtown USA will once again invite eager participants next week to six days of yuletide fun.
The festival will begin at about 6 p.m. New Years Eve with fireworks at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. Events over the next few days will be held at the fairgrounds as well as the Italian-American Civic Association, Hilton Garden Inn, the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park and the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library. Some activities will also be held at Maggies on the River and Buffalo Wild Wings, for those whod like to wet their whistles with stronger brands of beverages.
Some of the many events to be offered include a Resolution 5K race, Loco for Hot Cocoa 1K Childrens obstacle course, YMCA Family Snow Kickball Game, Watertown Privateers Game, snowshoe tour, horse-drawn carriage rides, snow sculpting, dog sled rides, Snowtown Zoo festivities, Ugly Sweater Public Skate, IHC High School hockey game, Snowtown Karaoke, Wounded Warrior hockey tournament, Red and Black snow football game, Snowtown Cake Wars and a snow softball tournament. The closing ceremonies will feature a torch parade and fireworks at dusk Jan. 5.
Snowtown USA was a popular winter festival in Watertown throughout the 1980s and 1990s. It derived its name from a blizzard in 1977 that dumped about 220 inches of snow on the region. CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite coined the phrase Snowtown USA when reporting on the storm.
But by the late 1990s, the event had been drastically reduced. In 1997, the festival was held over four days and featured two activities, snow-sculpting competitions and public ice skating.
That would be the last of Snowtown USA until Kristy Perez made a comment on Facebook this past summer asking if anyone had recalled the wonderful annual event. She said it would be great if young people growing up in Watertown today could experience what she had years before.
About 50 people responded to Mrs. Perezs comment that they would enjoy seeing the festival make a comeback. Inquiries were made to city officials about reinstituting the event, and committees were established to get the snowball rolling.
Its wonderful to see something so beloved make a return engagement. The energy needed to keep popular activities like this moving forward often ebbs, so its not surprising that it was forced to take a break.
But Snowtown USA is back, and a new generation of fun-seekers will have their turn making it part of their winter ritual. Now lets keep our fingers crossed that those white drifts and cool air do their part and give us all something to work with when the festival opens.