ORTH BENNINGTON — The annual Winterfest in North Bennington was another success Saturday as locals participated in the penguin plunge, chili cook off, ice sculpture contest and many other activities.
Kicking off the day's events, children and adults in teams of one or more supported Vermont Special Olympics by tip-toeing into Lake Paran. This year's venue gathered 5-inch ice and low 30 degree weather versus last year's 22 inches and five degree chill, Firefighter Bill Baldwin said.
"I love watching the people jump in," he said. "I wouldn't do it though."
Members of the cold water rescue team entertained the crowd prior to the plunge by doing front flips off of a blow-up raft in flotation suits. They assisted plungers in exiting the lake.
"I can't feel my feet," Retha Charette of the Southshire Roller Derby said. "It's my first time here. I'll probably do it again next year."
Following the chilly trend, four teams carved their way toward winning people's votes for best sculpture at the North Bennington Train Depot. Global Z, Bennington Subaru, Southshire Roller Derby and Vermont School for Girls took part.
Global Z transformed their blocks into an orthogonal USA structure that also read VT with a state silhouette from a side-view. The two perspective sculpture took the team about three hours to construct, Global Z member Phil Peacock said.
This is Global Z's fourth time competing where in past year's they've come in second place. Peacock's daughter is the root of their ice design. She said she searched Pinterest and located the unique style of carving by creating two visuals or letters, in this case, out of one structure.
Global Z Executive Vice President Dimitri Garder mentioned their team prefers more interactive pieces.
Those searching for a midday bite found many specials and sales including the NorShaft Lions Club's chili cook off and the Village School of North Bennington's bake sale fundraiser.
The St. John Baptist Church Community Room hosted over 20 different chilies from savory white bean chicken, chocolate stout, sausage and traditional mild, medium and hot chilies.
Lisa Herrington traditionally cooks up her savory dish and brought the chocolate stout chili to the table this year.
"I usually do a dessert chili except this one isn't that sweet," Herrington said. "I try to do something different and weird and something no one has heard of."
This particular flavor happened to be Shaftsbury resident Eileen Steinmeyer's favored choice. She said that she thought it was sweeter and she could taste the cinnamon.
Five chili samples were sold for $6 or one large cup for $5.
At the Village School, each floor acted as a part of the Winter Carnival. Children had the opportunity to get their face painted, jump around in a bouncy house and play in a video game tournament.
Mother of three children, Elizabeth Davis helped bake cookies to sell at the indoor carnival. She said each class creates a fundraiser to provide money for their end-of-the-year field trip.
This is the eighth year the Bennington Chamber of Commerce has anchored the Winter Festival. Some sponsors include Whitman's Feed Store, Vermont Arts Exchange, North Bennington Fire Department, Kevin's Sports Pub & Restaurant, Cat-TV, The Vermont Country Store, Two Brews Cafe, and many more local organizations.