WinterFest: Good Start for a New Tradition

Today I want to discuss World’s of Fun most recent addition: the WinterFest season.

Let me start by giving it a good 4 out of 5 stars in my quasi-rating system. I’m not judging very harshly, of course, but there was nothing there to make me  be overly critical, and a lot that I enjoyed, so it gets a good, easy rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

So, What was it like, and What did they do right?

The first thing they did right was not overwhelm. Yes, the place was lit up with lights galore, but it wasn’t garish. It was a winter wonderland, not a neighborhood decorating contest gone hyper.

The second important thing they did was the live entertainment. This includes both the stage groups and the street strollers. I will get to my nit picking in a bit, but the live entertainment is what makes WinterFest. Just like the Halloween Haunt it is a staff-intensive event, but those staff are what make the event magical. I applaud everyone who committed to performing, especially the outside acts, not knowing what temperature they might be performing in.

My own personal experience includes strolling and caroling at outside venues at sub zero temperatures for 2-4 hours at a time (with fortunately opportunities to step inside now and again) so I know just what sort of  commitment this can take.

The all-season dining plan was also in place, and we thoroughly enjoyed taking advantage of it. The food choices were pretty much chicken tenders, burgers, pizza, subway, but the barbecue place — Battlecreek Barbecue — was turned into the Festive Feast. It served a meal of ham or turkey with sides of Mac&Cheese, sweet potatos, corn, sweet potato waffle fries, potato wedges (choose two) along with a serving of some sort of cooked or fried veggie mix. Really did seem like a holiday feast.

They had different zones, themed sections. Africa featured “all the reasons for the season together in this traditionally decorated section of the park.” This meant Kwaanza, Hannukah and Christmas scenes, including a group doing “Sounds of the Nativity”, a quartet singing a basically Christmas Cantata version of the Christmas Story. I really enjoyed this group.

And even outside that section there were some “religious”-tinged music in the canned music over the speakers.  They weren’t afraid to express the full gamut of Christmas/Winter holiday themes.

But most of them were the more secular/Santa type songs and groups. So let me give my reviews piece by piece of the live entertainment:

  1. Tree Lighting Ceremony — Was a fun time, speakers a little loud. They encouraged us to sing along, and then varied the songs so you wouldn’t know the special beats they put it, which makes it hard to sing along.
  2. Cool Yule Christmas — Same spot as tree lighting. Again, overamped, but a fun blend of music.
  3. Charlie Brown’s Christmas Spectacular — Overamped, show inside the Tivoli Theater. Enjoyed the way they made the traditional Peanut’s musical themes live.
  4. Coke Polar Party — This was probably fun for some, but felt a little lame for me.  I did like the decorations that went with it.
  5. Jingle Jazz — Okay, I’m going to nit this one.  Billed as “Our group of Dickensian carolers”, I couldn’t find anything Dickensian at all about them, unless it was the silhouette of their outfits.  The colors and the music they sang certainly weren’t Dickensian. They did an awesome job of singing A Capella Jazz versions of Christmas favorites, with excellent vocal percussion. But really, Carol of the Bells? When you add that vocal percussion, the ringing of the bells just plain disappears.
  6. The Mistletones — These were a tight-harmonied female trio that made me think, very positively, of the Andrews Sisters. They were one of the best groups out there, in my estimation.
  7. Christmas Bluegrass — Only stopped and heard them once, but it seemed very good.
  8. Tinker’s Toy Factory — Never stopped in the Moulin Rouge to see this inside stage show. Description sounded great, but the one person I knew who saw it wasn’t impressed.
  9. Sounds of the Nativity — See comments above. Very Enjoyable.
  10. Holly Jolly Trolley — Saw a clip of this show my first night out.  Seemed fun, possibly a little overdone, and sometimes missing the occasional subtletlies of the toons they were doing, but still well done.  I kept trying to find them in later outings, but I think their schedule got moved around some and I never did see them again.
  11. Midway Merriment — Jack Frost, the Sugar Plum Fairy, Candy Cane, jingle Bell and a host of holiday characters. These strolling performers were what brought the entire dispersal of the various areas together into one celebration. Especially noteworthy was the Ebeneezer Scrooge Character.  He gave the Bah and Humbug answers before Christmas, but after Christmas he said “Merry Christmas” to show his reformation —  A very subtle but astute attention to detail.

So, my hopes are that WinterFest will continue, and that it won’t overdue, but continue its extravagant yet balanced celebration of the joy and bounty of the Winter Holidays.

And one really odd idea.  WinterFest ended on Dec. 30. We assumed they didn’t want to compete with the New Year’s Eve events that would be going on. Their usual hours were 5-10 p.m., and it would have  meant staying up to Midnight or beyond, etc. But we had this weird idea how they could.

If they were open on Dec. 31, they wouldn’t have to stay open later. They could have “early New Year’s celebrations”. They could have hourly “watch the apple drop” celebrations  from 6 to 9 p.m. Parents could bring their kids to the early drops, have a party, take them home, and then go out to their more adult celebration somewhere else.

That was our short idea, but there are obviously variations on the theme that could be done.


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