At the end of January every year, about 13,000 winter enthusiasts make their way to Chapman Lake on Chapman Dam Road out of Clarendon, PA to skate, ski, snow shoe, ice fish, and partake in lots and lots of sledding: downhill, on a horse drawn sleigh, and behind teams of dogs.
The event occurs at 1 p.m. on Saturday and spectators should arrive a few hours early to ensure a parking space. For more information, see a video of the Polar Bear Plunge and an article in the Times Observer.
Before the Winterfest, be sure to visit the 2011 Warren Outdoor and Travel Show on Jan. 15 and 16. Click here to get details
Winter Playland: CLICK HERE for updates on snowmobiling and skiing
This year promises to be bigger than ever on January 21, Saturday, January 22 and Sunday, January 23 with hockey competitions added on Sunday. On Friday night, the public will get a chance to meet Dog Sled Racers at the Kalbfus Club where a spaghetti dinner will be held for all, starting at 5 p.m., but people will start gathering there around 3 p.m. The Kalbfus Club is just before the Chapman Lake entrance on the right on Chapman Dam Road.
Those who take their sledding seriously, and even humorously, will get a chance to show their stuff on Saturday with sled races at noon, followed by inner tube races, which will be followed by Snowboard Racing. The humorous part occurs the next day, on Sunday, during the Cardboard Box Derby which starts at 1 p.m. Be sure to check in and register at the official Winterfest web site before you go. You can visit the web site at this link.
Each year the people who run the Warren County Winterfest also hold clinics to cover important winter skills like ice safety and ice fishing. A demonstration of the effects of hypothermia is clinically demonstrated as citizens and dignitaries of the County take part in a Polar Bear Plunge at exactly 1 p.m. Saturday. This is the biggest draw of the festival, so be sure to arrive an hour or two or three early or you will have a hard time finding a place to park. There is plenty and plenty of parking, but a lot of people come from all over to watch this. See a YouTube video of the polar bear plunge at http://www.alleghenyalmanac.com/2010/01/2009-chapman-lake-polar-bear-plunge.html
Last year about 80 people took part in the charitable event, according to the local daily newspaper, The Times Observer. The dash into the frozen Chapman Lake raised $8,000 for the local Salvation Army. The money is used to pay utility bills and buy food for needy people. As far as I can tell, this is the largest Polar Bear Plunge in the state of Pennsylvania. Contact Major Ronald Starnes if you want to take a dip for a good cause. He will have plenty of instructions on how to do it safely.
If you ever wanted to find out how to use a GPS navigation system, a Geo-Caching team will be on hand at 2 p.m. on Saturday. They will even loan you a GPS unit which you will use to find all kinds of things they have hidden away in the woods. And this year it won't be as cold as last year. Check the current weather conditions here.
You can also get free use of snow shoes and cross-country skiis to aid in your endeavors and there will be experts there to show you how to use them. That clinic starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by a guided tour of trails at 2 p.m.
After that you can lace up your skates and enjoy the ice on Chapman Lake. At 6 p.m. on Saturday, the Warren Champions, a figure skating group, will present a special exhibition on ice.
Photos of previous Warren County Winterfests are copyright by Chris Lareau and Sophia Lareau.
To get directions, a nifty map, and to contact the sponsors be sure to
For information on more winter outdoor opportunities, consult the area's local search engine at WorldWideWarren.net.