With no signs of an early spring, one might as well just enjoy winter.
That’s the spirit of the Winona Winter Carnival, back for its second year of providing February fun. The carnival, long a centerpiece of wintertime in Winona, was revived last year after ending in the early 2000s.
Winona Park and Recreation coordinator Pam Pfister said the carnival is bigger and better this year, with more than a dozen activities offered by organizations around town. There’s something for everyone, even the most strident hater of winter — from a sock hop hosted by the Masons to short films from the Frozen River Film Festival to an ice fishing contest for kids.
Pfister said the goal is to let the events, many of which have been going on for several years already, keep their individuality and attract their own participants. At the same time, the carnival gives the public one place to find the information about the events.
It’s a showcase of what Winona can offer in the winter.
“There’s lots that happens in this town, but winter tends to be kind of that ho-hum time,” Pfister said. “(The carnival) is providing an outlet for people to get out and engage.”
Among the additions to the carnival this year is Mid West Music Fest’s Sounds Like School, offering two short shows during the day on Friday and a longer set at night. Managing director Parker Forsell said the Friday shows do double duty: promoting the set of Iowa bands playing at the fest in April, as well as adding an indoor side to the winter carnival.
At the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, also jumping into the carnival weekend for the first time, guided tours will feature the museum’s more wintry artworks. It’s a way for people to get in the spirit of the season without being out in the cold, education curator Heather Casper said.
Another activity hosted by Manitou Martial Arts and Wellness Center is free Saturday morning tai chi at Windom Park.
While tai chi might seem like a strange candidate for a winter activity, instructor Paul Stern said it’s not unusual for martial artists to train outside year-round. In addition, group outdoor exercise, common in many parts of the world, has a community-building effect.
“To end up creating that during the wintertime is even more special,” Stern said. “We’re really excited to be participating.”
The most popular of the carnival’s events remains the Goose Bump Jump, which has been a Park and Rec fundraiser since 2006. Last year’s carnival brought the SMU Cardinal Plunge to the same location as the Goose Bump Jump, Pfister said, which generated more excitement for the two events.
Although the number of brave jumpers was down last year thanks to frigid temperatures leading up to the jump — and no reprieve the day of — Pfister said she hopes this year brings the number of participants back up to around 200 or more.
As a bonus for jumpers, this year’s changing tents will be heated.