Hanson Hills teams up with Booster Club for revamped winter event called Blizzardfest
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Hanson Hills Recreation Area is hoping a popular event from the past – downhill winter canoe racing – will help revamp its current winter festival, an event slated for the weekend of February 9 and 10.
For several years, Hanson Hills has conducted Winter Fun Days in February. It has featured a variety of events throughout the years, including a big air competition, cardboard sled box races, a chili cook-off, and fat biking in the snow. For the last few years, Winter Fun Days featured events on multiple February weekends.
This year, Grayling Recreation Authority – the governing body for Hanson Hills – is changing the name of its annual winter festival to Blizzardfest. Blizzardfest will feature some of the same events from Winter Fun Days while incorporating new activities.
In recent years, Winter Fun Days included the Grayling Youth Booster Club’s Blizzardfest, which featured a euchre tournament and free tubing at Hanson Hills. Grayling Recreation Authority, this year, opted to join forces with the Grayling Youth Booster Club, consolidating the two events into one weekend of winter recreation, all under the Blizzardfest name.
“We revamped what was known as Winter Fun Days to Blizzardfest. We liked the idea of trying to partner with the (Grayling Youth Booster Club),” said Justin Andre, Director of Operations for Grayling Recreation Authority.
Blizzardfest, like Winter Fun Days events of the past, will offer free tubing. This year’s free tubing session is slated for 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, February 9.
The Grayling Youth Booster Club will conduct a Beer Tent from 12 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, February 9. This is a new addition to the festival’s usual line-up.
In years past, Winter Fun Days has featured a chili cook-off for businesses. This year, for Blizzardfest, there will be a chili cook-off, but it will not be for businesses; amateur cooks will be submitting the chili. The cook-off will be held in the archery building at Hanson Hills from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 9.
“People will be able to come in, taste, and vote,” Andre said. “See who in Grayling, home cooks, has the best chili. If you’re a home cook and want to enter your chili, there are registration forms on our website, hansonhills.org. There is no fee, but there are rules.”
Registration forms for the chili cook-off are also available at Hanson Hills and RE/MAX of Grayling. Completed forms must be turned into either location by February 2.
Proceeds from the beer tent and the chili cook-off will go to the Grayling Youth Booster Club.
The downhill canoe and kayak races, called the Blizzardfest Winter Downhill Canoe/Kayak Chute-Out, will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, February 9, at the Hanson Hills tubing area.
The event will have two different formats. One is a “grudge match” style, Andre said, featuring area businesses battling head-to-head in two-person canoes. Hanson Hills will be providing the canoes. Fee is $100 per team. According to GRA, business names will be displayed on the canoes.
The other format for the Blizzardfest Winter Downhill Canoe/Kayak Chute-Out will be time trials. The time trials division will feature individuals in kayaks or teams of two in canoes racing against the clock, one at a time. Two runs per team or individual. Individuals must provide their own canoes/kayaks, helmets, floatation devices, and paddles for the time trials races, according to GRA. Fee is $40 per two-person canoe or $20 per kayak. Participants must be at least 16 years old and they must sign a waiver.
Entry forms for the Winter Downhill Canoe/Kayak Chute-Out are available at www.hansonhills.org.
Organizers are hoping to recapture some of the massive attendance and participation that the winter festival at Hanson Hills used to have many years ago.
“We decided we were going to embrace some of the past events,” Andre said. “One of the biggest was downhill canoe racing.”
On Sunday, February 10, Blizzardfest will feature the Big Air Competition, a carryover from Winter Fun Days. During the Big Air Competition, skiers and snowboarders – all ages are welcome – will hit the ramps at Hanson Hills and perform tricks and receive scores from the judges. Multiple age divisions. Scheduled start time is noon.
Blizzardfest organizers opted for a single weekend of activities this year instead of multiple weekends.
“We’re going to try to focus our energy on this, make it one big weekend,” Andre said.