Are you a parent looking for a way to get the family out of the house? Lowell's annual Winterfest has a whole day jam-packed with children's entertainment that will keep the little ones happy.
Are you an unattached adult wanting to blow off some steam after work? You may want to visit Winterfest's Marketplace for retail therapy or the two band tents to listen to live music.
Are you a couple looking for a romantic and fun night spot for a date? There may be nothing more charming than skating under the stars at Winterfest's own ice-skating rink.
Henri Marchand, director of cultural affairs for the city of Lowell, says the secret to Winterfest's lasting appeal is that it offers something for everyone.
"Whether people want to listen to music or exercise by skating or simply look forward to riding a carousel at the end of February or do a little bit of shopping, there's a little bit of something for everyone," Marchand says.
The festival, which returns to Lowell on Friday, Feb. 22, at 5 p.m., through Sunday, will feature a weekend filled with winter fun. This year, it will be contained solely at JFK Plaza on Arcand Drive in an effort to contain its surface area and keep all of the events in sight.
With a mix of old favorites and new events, Winterfest is shaping up to be the "cure for winter cabin fever," as Marchand calls it.
We spoke with Marchand to get a better idea of the best places to visit for each kind of visitor that might be looking for a winter escape.
1) The ice-skating rink at JFK Plaza proved to be a popular attraction in its first year of operation last year. Marchand notes that the past three Winterfests have been abnormally warm, which led to his team jokingly referring to the event as "Springfest." The rink, which is artificial and can hold anywhere from 40 to 50 people at a time, brings a new facet to the festival. "Skating out in nice weather without the bulky jackets? People really like that," Marchand says. The best part? Since it's artificial, no one has to worry about the ice melting.
2) Winterfest is known for its impressive live-music lineup. This year, Marchand says that the festival is happy to feature such local bands as the Squires of Soul, Sonic Avionics and Down On Farragut, among others.
3) The popular Winter Market will add a new marketplace. The EforAll Discovery Marketplace will make its first appearance at Winterfest. EforAll is an entrepreneurship program that assists entrepreneurs and startups in planning, production and testing products. The table will be set up Saturday and joins countless other vendors showing their wares to festival attendants.
1) Arguably the most popular event at Winterfest, the annual soup competition, attracts people in droves. "That's been a huge draw," Marchand says. "We had lines going down Arcand Drive toward the high school. Last year, we had 900 people come in and taste the soup we have." So far, the soup competition has 13 confirmed vendors.
2) Winterfest offers two days worth of live bands playing from two tents, the JFK Tent and the Arcand Tent. Popular with many of the teenage and adult festival-goers, the concerts offer everyone a rollicking live-music experience for less. This year, Marchand says that Winterfest is attempting to bring a variety of music genres to the stage.
3) A particularly strong draw of Winterfest is its family-fun atmosphere. Winterfest has the key to a fun family day out in the JFK tent. On Saturday, Feb. 23, from noon to 4 p.m., the festival's littlest visitors will get to enjoy popular features like balloon-twisting, face-painting and a carousel.
Top activities for kids:
1) Marchand can attest to the evergreen allure of the carousel at Winterfest. "I still enjoy the carousel," he admits. The traditional merry-go-round will be open to children (and adults who are children at heart) Friday, from 5 to 10 p.m., and Saturday, from noon to 10 p.m. For any parent looking for an engaging activity for the whole family, the carousel is the first stop on the itinerary.
2) Ice skating at Winterfest is a fun event for people of all ages, and kids have had a great time with it in the past. Whether a prodigy or newcomer to skating, kids can enjoy rounding the artificial rink for hours at a time. Parents worrying about bringing a pair of skates ahead of time can rest easy: Winterfest will provide rental skates to those who lack their own.
3) Saturday is for the kids (well, before it's for the adults anyway). The JFK Tent's Family Fun Zone is offering a full day of children's entertainment that will include face-painting, a puppet show, magic and balloon-twisting. If they're feeling tired from the full day of fun, kids can load up on sugar at the Chocolate Festival, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at St. Anne's Episcopal Church.
Top activities for adults:
1. According to an old adage, the best way to someone's heart is through the stomach. If you're using Winterfest as your date night, take your sweetheart over to the scores of food trucks that will populate Arcand Drive on both Friday and Saturday. Vendors include Chicks and Dogs Rolling Diner, Chez Rafiki and Shuck Food Truck among others. Winterfest's beverage partners will be Fuse Bistro and Cobblestones of Lowell for anyone feeling thirsty. For those festival-goers who don't want to visit the food trucks, breathe a sigh of relief: NE Comfort Foods will be selling refreshments at JFK Plaza.
2. Winterfest is packing two tents full of live music Friday and Saturday nights. Friday night's lineup at JFK consists of the Squires of Soul at 5:30 p.m., followed by Evan Goodrow Band at 8 p.m. The Arcand tent starts with Sonic Avionics at 5:30 and Bo Joeman & Band at 8 p.m. The music returns Saturday at 5 p.m., with Lily Black, followed by Hal Holiday and the Tones at 7:30. At 5:30, the Arcand tent will boast Down on Farragut, with Tee & the Gents closing the night, starting at 8.
3. What festival would be complete without beer and wine? Definitely not Winterfest. Both the JFK and Arcand tents will serve craft beers, wine and some classic hot beverages with a twist.