MILLINOCKET, Maine — A snowmobile parade, fireworks, a first taste of the town’s newest and only restaurant based on a successful TV show, the official opening of the Katahdin region’s first multiuse recreational bridge and a whole bunch of snowmobiling are part of Winterfest 2010 starting today.
Meant to celebrate snowmobiling and the region’s rich outdoor winter environment, Winterfest begins at 6 p.m. with a snowmobile parade on Penobscot Avenue followed by a fireworks show at the Millinocket Recreation Complex at Stearns High School at 7:30 p.m. The public is invited.
The snowmobile trails aren’t as thick with snow as they have been in years past, but they still offer quite a good ride, said Frank Clukey, director of the recreation departments of East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket.
“The trails are good,” Clukey said Thursday. “As much as everyone thinks they are icy, when they groom them they cut them up, and they are still groomed two or three times a week. As of last week, everyone was telling me that the trail conditions were good.”
Recognized internationally for its excellence, the Katahdin region’s extensive snowmobile trail network and accommodations typically draw hundreds if not thousands of people during the week of Winterfest, which parallels the weeklong February school vacation, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said.
Millinocket and the region have been nationally recognized by the travel Web site TripAdvisor.com as one of the world’s top snowmobiling areas.
“The Winterfest is always a very fun time for people,” Conlogue said. “We have great snowmobiling here and the festival is based on celebrating that. The festival is kind of a big package on this. The festival just helps top that off.”
The snowmobile parade will be preceded by town Public Works Department workers dumping tons of snow along a route from Stearns to the downtown park. That work began Thursday. The snow will be groomed today just before the parade, Clukey said.
Besides today, the biggest day of the celebrations is the festival’s final day, Feb. 20. A pancake breakfast and the opening of a snowmobile museum at the Northern Timber Cruisers clubhouse, whose membership provides most of the volunteers who make the festival possible, are among the day’s highlights.
The area’s sole multiuse recreational bridge and the newest trail to it will be formally dedicated that day. Located on Route 11 just west of town, the bridge opened in December. Already used by hikers, snowmobilers and other outdoors enthusiasts, it is crucial to efforts to build an ATV trail network in the Katahdin region, pro-ponents have said.
Officials, business owners and recreation enthusiasts from East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket have long believed that all-terrain-vehicle use in the Katahdin region would inject millions of dollars into the regional economy during spring, summer and fall, much the way snowmobiling does during winter.
Town Councilor John Raymond, former Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce President Brian Wiley and resident Paul Sannicandro have been working for three years as volunteers to create a 35-mile multiuse trail for ATV riders, bicyclists, bird-watchers, campers, hikers, snowmobilers and others.
Their efforts will be celebrated with the ribbon cutting on Feb. 20.
The Pelletier family of the Discovery Channel’s “American Loggers” TV show also will give the public a taste of their new eatery. They bought the former Downtown Restaurant and an adjoining former laundromat on Penobscot Avenue at an auction for an undisclosed price on May 21.
Several Gerald Pelletier Inc. workers and a three-man crew from RDH Contractors Inc. began extensively remodeling both places in June.