BREWER, Maine — Free hot homemade chili and chowder are good at warming up the body, but it’s the good fellowship from family, friends and neighbors who gather at the annual Penobscot River Winterfest that warms the heart every year, one official said.
“This year, more than ever, people need the opportunity to have some free fun and come together in the community,” Tanya Pereira, Brewer Economic Development deputy director and event organizer, said Monday.
The 2009 Penobscot River Winterfest, which begins Friday, is in its seventh year and is a two-day community celebration that features a chili and chowder cook-off, dancing, ice sculptures, children’s events — sledding and skating, and games inside the Brewer Auditorium — and other fun geared toward family, she said.
“This is for the whole [region],” Pereira said. “It doesn’t matter where you live or where you’re coming from … it’s an opportunity to do something fun and interesting.
“We have some kids coming up from a [recreation] department in New Hampshire, and we have folks who come from southern Maine” for the activities, she said.
As usual, Jeff Day of Ice Designs in New Hampshire, a professional ice sculptor, will start the festivities off when he powers up his chain saw Friday afternoon to carve huge ice blocks into art in the parking lot of the Muddy Rudder restaurant.
“This year’s theme is fantasy,” Pereira said.
Day and other sculptors in the Saturday amateur ice-carving competition could create unicorns or dragons, she said, adding, “There always are a couple that you can stick your head in and take a photo.”
While Day carves and chips away at his design, children of all ages will be skating and sledding at Doyle Field, and others will enjoy free hors d’oeuvres and happy-hour drink prices at a reception in the Chamberlain Room at the Muddy Rudder.
“Come upstairs and enjoy a snack and live music provided by our [Brewer’s] code enforcement officer, David Russell” and Joe Shaw, who form the music group J.D. Bros., Pereira said.
The duo will play acoustic light rock from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, she said. The fireworks display will take place at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday’s events start at 8 a.m. with the Brewer Kiwanis Club’s annual French toast breakfast downstairs at the Brewer Auditorium. At the same time, the first coed softball game will begin as six local teams battle for the Winterfest title.
Children and their parents are encouraged to head to the Brewer Auditorium for four hours of free games and family activities offered by Penquis, beginning at 9 a.m.
Those with a hankering for homemade chili or chowder should head to the back porch of the Muddy Rudder at noon Saturday for the annual cook-off, where taste testers vote for their favorites.
While people enjoy a free lunch, they can watch as amateur ice sculptors, competing for a trophy, carve away at their creations along the riverfront.
Awards for the cook-off and carving competitions are scheduled to be given out around 2:30 p.m.
The two-day event ends with the Winter Snowball Dance, 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday upstairs at the Muddy Rudder, which includes dance lessons, hors d’oeuvres and happy-hour drink prices. Tickets costing $20 per person, $35 per couple or $140 for a table of eight are still available. All of the proceeds benefit the Penquis Keep Kids Warm fund, which provides heating assistance to families in need, Pereira said.
“It’s all for a really good cause,” she said. “This goes to help the community, and this year people need it more than ever.”
In these hard economic times, it’s important that people can have some free fun, said City Councilor Gail Kelly at the Feb. 10 council meeting.
“It’s not just for Brewer residents,” she said. “Everybody is invited to come over.”
A complete list of events with times may be found at the city’s Web site, www.brewerme.org, and will be printed in Thursday’s The Weekly.
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Winterfest 2009 events
Friday, Feb. 20
• 4-8 p.m. ice-carving demonstration at the Muddy Rudder.
• 6-8 p.m. skating and sliding party at Doyle Field, behind Brewer Auditorium.
• 6-8 p.m. packet pickup for softball tournament at the Muddy Rudder.
• 6-8 p.m. cocktail hors d’oeuvres reception, live entertainment featuring J.D. Bros. at the Chamberlain Room, Muddy Rudder.
• 7:30 p.m. fireworks display, outside Muddy Rudder.
Saturday, Feb. 21
• 8-10 a.m. French toast breakfast at Brewer Auditorium, $5 adult, $3 kids.
• 8 a.m. start softball tournament at Doyle Field.
• 9 a.m.-1 p.m. family activities and games at Brewer Auditorium.
• 10 a.m.-2 p.m. ice carving competition and displays at Muddy Rudder.
• Noon-2 p.m. chili and chowder cook-off at Muddy Rudder.
• 2:30 p.m. announcement and presentation of awards at Muddy Rudder.
• 7-11 p.m. Winter Snowball Dance at the Chamberlain Room, Muddy Rudder.