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Island Pond cel­e­brates win­ter and com­mu­nity


By Elizabeth Trail, as seen in the Barton Chronicle:

IS­LAND POND — Fat snowflakes drifted down over Is­land Pond as a line of snow­mo­bil­ers waited their turn for the an­nual bless­ing of the snow­mo­biles.

Robed in white, Muriel O’­Gor­man touched each sled and its dri­ver with the tip of a pine branch, and said a prayer for safe trav­els. It’s a rit­ual that Ms. O’­Gor­man and Jodi Gonyaw-Worth, lay wor­ship­pers from the lo­cal Epis­co­pal Church, have been per­form­ing for years now.

It’s a peace­ful con­tem­pla­tive thing that seemed at odds with the whine of sled en­gines and the haze of ex­haust, but it’s a rit­ual that clearly meant some­thing to the rid­ers who waited pa­tiently in line.

The bless­ing of the snow­mo­biles, which is spon­sored by the Brighton Snow­mo­bile Club, is just one of the faces of Is­land Pond’s an­nual win­ter car­ni­val, a three-day cel­e­bra­tion of win­ter and com­mu­nity.

Events kicked off on Fri­day night with a col­or­ful snow­mo­bile pa­rade of lights down the main thor­ough­fare. And over the course of the week­end it in­cludes every­thing from all-you-can-eat pan­cakes to wine tast­ing to an ice sculp­ture con­test.

There was ice mini-golf on the ten­nis courts be­hind Sun­rise Manor, the lo­cal se­nior liv­ing fa­cil­ity named for its sun­rise view over the lake. There was a bas­ket­ball shoot­ing con­test and a corn­hole tour­na­ment. There was a chili cook-off and a broom­ball tour­na­ment and a karaoke con­test.

Fam­i­lies who wanted to warm up could head into Sun­rise Manor to play board games and drink hot choco­late.

For young­sters, the day­time high­light of the week­end was clearly the snow fort, a gi­ant moun­tain of snow with stairs and slides and tun­nels built over the pre­vi­ous week by vol­un­teers for the re­cently formed Brighton Recre­ation.

Steps and slides were splashed brightly with food col­or­ing. Nearby, for smaller chil­dren, there was a snow tur­tle with a waist high slide.

The day be­fore, the snow tur­tle had sported a carved shell, its de­tails en­hanced with more food col­or­ing, art­fully ap­plied.

Fri­day night’s snow had ob­scured most of the vol­un­teer’s hard work, but that did­n’t seem to bother the tod­dlers who climbed the pint-sized stairs and slid down the Lil­liput­ian slide.

“We wanted to build some­thing re­ally great for the kids,” vol­un­teer Heather McEl­roy ex­plained. “So the town brought us some truck­loads of snow, and we went to work.”

Brighton’s new recre­ation com­mit­tee came out of the Ver­mont Rural De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil’s (VRDC) com­mu­nity visit last year.

VRD­C’s com­mu­nity visit pro­gram helps towns iden­tify pro­jects that peo­ple can do to cre­ate needed change in their towns.

“Fam­i­lies need more to do in Is­land Pond,” Ms. McEl­roy said. “So we came up with the idea of re­ally putting a lot of ef­fort into a recre­ation com­mit­tee.”

Be­sides the snow play­ground, the recre­ation com­mit­tee put on the mini mini-golf, board games, bas­ket­ball con­test, and corn­hole tour­na­ment.

But it seems that the whole com­mu­nity was in on the act. On Sat­ur­day morn­ing there was break­fast at the Amer­i­can Le­gion, and dough­nuts and maple syrup at the li­brary. Nearby, the North­Woods Stew­ard­ship Cen­ter opened its lodge and trails to peo­ple who wanted to snow­shoe and ski, with a guided snow­shoe hike through Brighton State Park for the more ath­let­i­cally in­clined.

The lo­cal banks spon­sored the chili con­test, and a lo­cal church put on sleigh rides.

Na­ture could have co­op­er­ated with sun­shine, but it was a gray day, vary­ing from gen­tle flakes to snow show­ers.

None of that seemed to mat­ter. Peo­ple went in­side to eat or warm up, and came back out again for more.

By late af­ter­noon, de­spite the in­creas­ingly heavy snow­fall, there was a pal­pa­ble sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion.

For fam­i­lies, the other big high­light of the week­end is the an­nual card­board sled race.

The race is held un­der spot­lights on Sat­ur­day night, on a steep hill just out­side of town. Cars lined the roads lead­ing to the site for blocks.

The sleds are made out of card­board and duct tape. No other ma­te­ri­als are al­lowed ex­cept for dec­o­ra­tions.

Some young­sters built their sleds them­selves, oth­ers looked like fam­ily col­lab­o­ra­tions.

Car­son Lacroix of Charleston, who turns ten years old this month, took the steep hill perched atop a tiny seat mounted to a bright or­ange sled of his own de­sign.

The race is in its tenth year, so to the young­sters, it’s an in­sti­tu­tion.

“I’ve been watch­ing the race for a long time,” Car­son said, with an ear-to-ear grin. “And my dad said I was old enough to do it this year.”

His fam­ily found a set of card­board run­ners, meant to go un­der a re­frig­er­a­tor, in a dump­ster in New­port where they were hunt­ing for a big ap­pli­ance box to cut up.

Run­ners may not have been the ideal thing for the soft new snow that awaited the rac­ers on Sat­ur­day night, but Car­son gave it every ef­fort.

There were a lot of sim­ple flat sleds in the race, rolled up in front like a to­bog­gan. And there was a gleam­ing Bat­mo­bile, and a ship, and a huge ride-in snow groomer, painted red with flash­ing lights.

That one took Tyler Hig­gins and his dad, Eric Hig­gins, 20 hours and a re­ported $100 worth of duct tape to make.

“But it was all Tyler’s idea,” his fa­ther said.

Tyler was in­spired by fam­ily friend Bobby Tower, who dri­ves a snow groomer, and by the re­cent death of snow­mo­biler Dave Page, an Es­sex County Ver­mont As­so­ci­a­tion of Snow Trav­el­ers di­rec­tor and a mem­ber of the Brighton Snow­mo­bile Club.

When Tyler’s mam­moth sled went off course the first time down, it took a team of men to push it back to the top.

He made it to the bot­tom on the sec­ond try, but by that time some­one had brought a set of mov­ing straps to help drag it to the top again.

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