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Ready your snowshoes for local winter festivals

There will be plenty of snowshoes to try out at both winter events on Saturday – Winterfest 2011 at Nescopeck State Park in Drums and the Quest Winter Festival at Bloomsburg University.

You’ll find many wintry scenes at Nescopeck State Park in Drums this weekend.

PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER

This weekend, Bloomsburg. Maybe someday, the Iditarod. The opportunity to ride in dogsleds is on the list of activities at the Winter Festival sponsored by Bloomsburg University’s Quest program.

Jeremy Quant/courtesy PHOTO

Earlier this week, Nescopeck State Park was quiet and still. It should be a different case during Winterfest 2011 on Saturday.

PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER

If you’re trying out some cross-country skis or snowshoes on Saturday at Nescopeck State Park, the Nescopeck Trail might be a good place to explore.

PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER

One advantage of cross-country skiing or walking in snowshoes is that they distribute your weight and prevent you from sinking into deep snow — as you might discover at Nescopeck State Park’s Winterfest 2011 on Saturday.

PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER

For Corrine Wolf, just about every wintry weekend is a good time to take her children to Nescopeck State Park in Drums, borrow snowshoes from the park office and tramp about in the white stuff.

This Saturday will be even better, the Dennison Township woman said, because Winterfest 2011 will fill the park with loads of family-friendly activities.

If you can toss a hat onto a snowman or throw a snowball through a hoop, environmental-education specialist Diane Madl said, there will be events for you. Also planned are races on sleds and snow shovels as well as a tug-of-war in the snow and chances to learn about ice fishing and ice safety.

“Ice fishing is always a big hit with our family,” Wolf said, adding 12-year-old Rebecca, 10-year-old Nathan and 8-year-old Sarah have yet to catch a fish that way – but there’s always hope.

Winterfest at Nescopeck will include ice-rescue demonstrations at noon and again at 2 p.m., courtesy of the Dennison Township Fire Co. and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission along with a bird walk at 11:30 a.m. and a winter wildlife walk at 1:30 p.m.

The Mazurek family of McAdoo may take that bird walk, said dad Greg Mazurek, who was happy to see a downy woodpecker at Nescopeck during a previous winter visit.

He said his daughters Stephanie, 10, and Alyssa, 7, want to try snowshoes and believes they’ll enjoy the wildlife hike, too. “We’ll go explore and look for tracks, things we might not normally think to look for. They (the guides at Nescopeck) are very knowledgeable.”

Rounding out the day will be ice-fishing demonstrations, refreshments sold by local Boy Scouts and a park office equipped with about 40 pairs of snowshoes and a dozen pairs of cross-country skis to lend.

The ice-rescue demonstrations should offer a bit of drama because, Madl said, some of the demonstrators actually enter the chilling waters of Lake Francis and get pulled out.

If you want to look beyond Luzerne County for some winter fun, Bloomsburg University will be the setting for a Human-Powered Winter Festival sponsored by Quest, the university’s outdoor-leadership program.

This festival, too, will offer safety education in the form of clinics on hypothermia, winter injuries, winter dress and layering.

It’s also offering participants the chance to zoom down a snowy embankment in a kayak, learn to cross-country ski and, “for a small fee,” ride in a dog sled. Some participants may want to try out the zip line that Quest staffer Emily Fogoros describes as going “from ground level into a ravine and then you get lowered onto the ground.”

“I’ve not ridden that one, but we have another that I did ride,” she said. “It’s scary, but it’s exhilarating. Everybody usually screams.”

The Human-Powered Winter Festival, which welcomes the public as well as university students, will offer tips on ice climbing and how to traverse a glacier, with everyone tied together for safety.

There’s also a particularly zany 3K race scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

At first, it was going to be an ordinary footrace, but earlier this week organizers got the idea to suggest racers wear “boots, skis, snowshoes, flippers” for what they’re calling “The Winter Wobble Hobble.”

There will be “bonus points for bizarre dress,” “street credit for silly glasses” and “ridiculous awards for ridiculous people,” Fogoros said, adding that using a non-motorized conveyance such as a unicycle also would be acceptable in the race.

Just remember, she said, in keeping with the “Human-Powered” aspect of the festival, the rule is “No snowmobiles.”

If you go

What: Winterfest 2011 at Nescopeck State Park

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Nescopeck State Park, 1137 Honey Hole Road, Drums

Admission: Free

More info: 403-2006

What: Quest Winter Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Upper campus of Bloomsburg University, 400 E. Second St., Bloomsburg

Admission: Free

More info: 389-4323 or buquest.org

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