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It's official - 2012 will be a winter without Winterfest

It's the winter that almost wasn't. Despite recent frigid temperatures, our area of the state only feels like winter - it doesn't look like it. Sliding hills, cross country ski runs, sled dog races and snowmobile trails all remain shut down, and ...

It's the winter that almost wasn't.

Despite recent frigid temperatures, our area of the state only feels like winter - it doesn't look like it. Sliding hills, cross country ski runs, sled dog races and snowmobile trails all remain shut down, and the most recent casualty was Cloquet's annual Winterfest celebration and Snow Carving Contest slated for the last weekend in January. The Cloquet Community Education Department, which co-sponsors the event with the city of Cloquet, made the difficult decision this week to cancel the popular event.

"We will hope for more snow next winter!" said Community Education Director Sara Liimatainen.

She added that the planned "Cabin Fever Reliever" event will go ahead on Friday, Jan. 27, as scheduled, with free swimming, gym and youth center activities offered at the Cloquet Middle School from 6-8 p.m.

Tim Young, coordinator of the Snow Carving Contest, said all registration fees for the contest will be returned.

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Pretty much the only thing winter has going for it around this area is the ice, according to Cloquet Parks Supervisor Les Peterson. Peterson said area skating rinks have been doing a land office business, with literally hundreds of skaters taking to area rinks.

"We counted 404 people at the Sunnyside rink in the first three weeks after we opened, and that was just during the time we had an attendant there, between 4 and 8 p.m., and there were something like 200 or more at the Athletic Park rink. There isn't an attendant on duty at Pinehurst, but I know that rink has been really busy, too. A lot of people play broomball there."

There has also been an uptick in outdoor hockey activity, with the rink next to the Pine Valley hockey shelter seeing regular use for youth hockey practices for the first time in the past three years.

"More coaches are saying that kids need to be outside," said Peterson.

In addition, Peterson said the city is looking into the possibility of renting or purchasing a snow making machine for the Pine Valley Recreation Area that would provide a more permanent solution for skiers, ski jumpers and snow tubers during near-snowless winters such as this one. Peterson said various stakeholders in the project, including the cross country ski coaches and members of the ski jumping association, were slated to meet to discuss the issue Wednesday afternoon. He said if there is serious enough interest in the proposal, it will be taken on to the Cloquet Park Board.

Related Topics: CARLTON COUNTYCLOQUET
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