Getting the flavor of...
Maine’s toboggan festival
In Camden, Maine, a February without the U.S. National Toboggan Championships “would hardly feel like winter,” said Keith O’Brien in The New York Times. The event is more of a winter festival than an Olympic-level competition, with its 400 teams and 5,000 spectators mostly hailing from on or near Maine’s scenic coast. But the races, slated for Feb. 10–12 this year, provide an excuse for both fireworks over the harbor and a snowplow parade. Last year, I entered the competition with my wife and sons, using a toboggan built by a craftsman in Rockport. The usual run is “no joke”: a 440-foot wooden chute that spits racers onto a frozen lake at speeds approaching 40 mph. But warm temperatures forced a move to Mount Battie, where our time put us well behind the top finishers. Thanks to some rolls of purple, green, and gold duct tape that we’d used to cover ourselves in Mardi Gras stripes, we did walk away with the prize for best costumes.
A Wisconsin icicle castle
Wisconsin’s first castle made of icicles is no place for baby strollers or high heels, said Mary Bergin in the Eau Claire, Wis., Leader-Telegram. But so what if the footing is slippery? Weeks of work by a crew that specializes in such attractions have resulted in “a wintry wonderland of tunnels for crawling, thrones for perching, and a maze of sometimes narrow, twisting trails.” A Utah-based company, Ice Castles, developed the construction method several years ago. Once winter arrives, workers start building, strategically adding roughly 10,000 icicles a day until the walls stand 20 feet high. The finished castle in Wisconsin Dells, one of four such structures built in the U.S. this year, has two large slides and a large domed room with an ice fountain. A mid-January warm spell forced a temporary shutdown after sell-out crowds greeted the opening. Fortunately, there’s another photo-friendly attraction right next door: an upside-down replica of the White House.