News Feature

The Island
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, January 19, 2023
Fireworks, community dance headline WinterFest 2023
Indoor and outdoor activities planned

by Jack Beaudoin

Familiar family-focused winter activities, a competitive cribbage tournament and a flourish of fireworks. It’s the island’s annual WinterFest—with one big difference.

“We’re packing everything into one day this year,” said Healthy Island Project Executive Director René Colson Hudson. “It just feels great to be together, celebrating the island.”

The 2023 edition marks the 18th time the people and organizations on Deer Isle have come together to commune, relax and have fun during the height of winter. According to Hudson, the pandemic took its toll, cancelling one year’s celebration and forcing events to be outdoors-only in other years.

This year, WinterFest returns with a healthy balance of indoor and outdoor happenings. Hudson said that organizers discussed the return to inside events at length before deciding to do so.

“We’re getting back to a semblance of normalcy after some difficult years,” she said.

Noting that the island has experienced a recent rash of respiratory inflections and flu, as well as ongoing COVID-19 cases, Hudson said masks were recommended but not required.

Saturday starts early

Healthy may be the key word for early birds. Northern Light Primary Care in Stonington is offering a Men’s Health “Overhaul” from 7 to 9 a.m. at Island Family Medicine. The free, no-appointment assessment includes blood pressure screening, blood sugar and cholesterol tests, hearing and vision assessments and more.

The festivities begin at Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School at 10 a.m. with live music, face painting, kids crafts, demonstrations and presentations across many areas of interest, including origami, animals and igloos in the gym.

Simultaneously, the annual cribbage tournament kicks off in the school’s cafeteria with a battle for island supremacy—and a trophy—at stake. The more adventurous can try their hands and feet on the climbing wall or in dance lessons.

Hudson promised that there will be lots of food to keep attendees energized.

“It’s all free,” she said, “and prepared with great care and thoughtfulness.”

Fireworks and dancing

The focus shifts to Stonington on Saturday afternoon, starting with a two-hour “Learn to Play Pickleball” session at the Island Community Center gym. The Stonington Opera House will host a new addition to the WinterFest schedule at 3 p.m.—a free movie (Small Foot) and cookie decorating.

At 6 p.m., the Island Community Center parking lot will light up with fire pits for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, accompanied by hot cocoa and hot chai, as celebrants gather for the 6:45 p.m. fireworks display.

“The fireworks are great,” Hudson said. “They are always wonderful, maybe because we know that they are just for us, the diehard, year-round islanders.”

WinterFest 2023 will close with a dance from 7 to 9 p.m. at Stonecutters Kitchen. Music will be provided by the band Along for the Ride.

Hudson credited the towns of Deer Isle and Stonington, as well as a long list of sponsors, for underwriting the event and making it free for attendees.