Folks find North Adams' WinterFest a cabin fever cure


PHOTO GALLERY |Winterfest fun in downtown North Adams

NORTH ADAMS -- On any other day it would have been a nuisance, but Saturday's snowfall set the perfect scene for the city's annual WinterFest.

A day to brighten spirits during the dreariness of February, the event attracted people from around the region to participate in a chowder competition, view beautiful ice sculptures, take wagon rides, and even roast marshmallows on a bonfire in the middle of Holden Street.

This WinterFest saw some traditional and some inventive chowders, as restaurants provided a wide variety of tastes. Hundreds of chowder-hungry WinterFest-goers filed through the space at 107 Main Street, tasting free samples from different contestants as they went along.

More than 700 people tried the chowder in all, according to event organizers' estimates, and more than 350 people filled out ballots.

The contestants were a mix of the educational -- MCLA, Williams College, and Drury High School chefs all cooked up some chowder -- and restaurants, including Bounti-Fare and Adams Ale House.

In the people's choice category, Boston Seafoods took first place, Williams College finished second, and Adams Ale House was third. In the judged portion of the competition, Bounti-Fare took home the top prize, with Boston Seafoods and Williams College awarded second and third place, respectively.

Matthew Tatro, executive chef at the Adams Ale House, offered a jalapeno chowder that brought a touch of heat to the palate.

"There's no real secret," he said. "We're a new restaurant and this is a great way to get our name out there and give back to the community."

The crux of the chowder is all in the roux, according to Tatro, a mixture of equal parts melted butter and flour that gives a great chowder its thick consistency.

Bounti-Fare's chowder was a mix of all things seafood, according to its servers.

"It's all the different seafoods, said server and bartender Barbara Bonnett. "They don't even tell me [the recipe]."

Meanwhile, on Holden Street, kids were indulging in the type of fun usually reserved for the summer months.

The North Adams Fire Department set up a sand pit and bonfire in the center of Holden Street, and free marshmallows were available for roasting. In the midst of the outdoor festivities, families gathered around the fire to warm their limbs. Nicholas Swanson, an MCLA student, kept a watchful eye over the fire under the direction of the Fire Department. Swanson was helping out as part of his fraternity's community service initiative.

Ice sculptures lined Main Street, as sculptors chain-sawed and carved large blocks of ice throughout much of the day.

Keith Bona carved a bright red cardinal in front of his store, Berkshire Emporium and Antiques, Bona said he was aiming for something berry-themed, and cardinals eat berries.

"[A cardinal] was better than a berry," he joked.

Though Bona estimated it took him about an hour to complete his cardinal, Bill St. Pierre worked on a snowmobile for East Coast Snocross well into the afternoon. The promoters of East Coast Snocross saw it as a fitting way to celebrate the organizations upcoming races at the Range on Curran Highway next weekend.

"It was really good," said Veronica Bosley, director of tourism in North Adams. "The weather for us was actually pretty nice and...picturesque," she said.


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