Contests, Concerts and Cakes at Winterfest

Looking through the events slated for Fish Creek’s 36th annual Winterfest, you might wonder: what do a bake-off, a toilet-seat toss and a costumed fun-run have in common? 

Though the festival’s lineup might seem random, common themes weave it altogether: fun local culture, a sense of community and – competition. You can’t spell “Winterfest” without “win,” after all.

The games begin at 10 am Feb. 3 when the booths open at Clark Park. In past years, those booths have included hockey, football, golf, bowling and basketball games, right alongside more unusual sports like minnow-racing and bike-/toilet seat-tossing.

A stumpf-fiddle contest in the main tent, cherry pit spit-off at Lautenbach’s, and the yearly Fruit Loop Fun Run will remain staples at this year’s festival, and a new tradition will join their ranks: the second-annual Snowflake Cake Bake. Winning is always sweet, but this new cake-decoration contest is making it even sweeter.

The Taste of Winterfest

The Snowflake Cake Bake made its Winterfest debut in 2023, according to Lissa Parr, who coordinates the event and is a part of the Fish Creek Civic Association’s Winterfest committee. It started small with six snowflake-themed entries from bakers aged 10 to 60+.

This year, entries have to register ahead of time in one of two divisions (ages 13 and up and ages 12 and under), follow the selected theme (“snowman”) and fit into a 10-by-10-by-10-inch box – but there are no requirements for how the cake actually tastes. That’s because the cakes are raffled off to event-goers after the first, second and third places are determined – and nobody wants to win a pre-tasted cake.

“We want raffle winners to get their cakes in one piece,” Parr said with a laugh. 

The winning cakes are determined via popular vote. From 11 am – 1 pm during the second day of Winterfest, Feb. 3, event-goers will vote by buying a $1 raffle ticket and placing it in the box next to their favorite cake. After the votes are counted up, one raffle ticket is drawn for each cake, which the ticket-holder gets to take home (or tackle with a fork in the middle of the main tent, depending how cake-hungry they are). 

Last year, the competition brought in around $200, which went back into the Winterfest-planning fund. But the event is still in its infancy, and Parr said the Winterfest committee is open to partnering with a local non-profit organization, which would run the event and keep the money it generates.

The idea for the Snowflake Cake Bake came about because Winterfest’s annual chili cook-off – a major draw for attendees, according to Parr – went on pause for a few years (don’t worry – the chili cookoff is back this year, 12-4 pm on Feb. 3 at Top of the Hill Shops.) 

To fill the gap in the schedule, the Winterfest committee looked to the festival’s past, drawing inspiration from the cake walks that used to be a Winterfest tradition.

“It’s a little kitschy and retro,” Parr said – two words that aptly describe the festival as a whole.

The Sound of Winterfest

Live music is one of Winterfest’s few non-competitive offerings (though you could probably turn your listening experience into a contest if you tried hard enough. We believe in you.)

First up is Bacchus Lotus, a rock band whose high-energy performances have taken them all over the peninsula and the state. The four original band members – Jeff Radke, Rich Zoran, Matt Bayens and Charlie Eckhardt – joined forces back in 1979, and in 2022, they added Door County’s own Zephyr Ciesar to their lineup as a lead singer. The group will take the stage 3-6 pm in the main tent, Feb. 3. 

Bacchus Lotus frontwoman Zephyr Ciesar sings. File photo by Rachel Lukas.

Next up is Ketchup – the band, not the condiment – performing some late-night tunes at Hill Street, starting at 10 pm. The band, which serves up funky instrumentals and certified hipster covers, is led by Memphis multi-instrumentalist-turned-Sister Bay-songsmith Paul Taylor.

Ketchup plays at Hill Street this January. File photo by Myles Dannhausen Jr.

Between the two sets, you can catch fireworks over the ice at 6:15 pm, or take a much quieter hike or ski through a candlelit trail in Peninsula State Park, 5-8 pm. 

Winterfest Schedule of Events

Ready to dance, bowl, spit, fiddle and munch your way through Winterfest weekend? Here’s everything you need to know to do just that.

All of the following events take place at Clark Park, 4150 Maple St. unless otherwise noted. All addresses listed are in Fish Creek. 

Feb. 2

6:30-10 pm Disco DoCo Night, featuring music, dancing and snacks at Hands On Art Studio, 3655 Peninsula Players Road.

Feb. 3

10 am – 6 pm: Main tent open with food and drinks available.

10 am – 3 pm: Game booths open.

10 am onward: All Things Chocolate, an annual bake sale fundraiser by the Gibraltar Historical Association, is open at Fish Creek’s Old Town Hall, 4176 Maple St.

11 am – 4 pm: Trolley runs throughout town.

11 am – 1 pm: Snowflake Cake Bake at the main tent.

12 pm – 4 pm: Chili cook-off and free henna art at Top of the Hill Shops, 9331 Spring Road

12:30 pm: Ice rescue demonstration.

1 pm: Cherry pit spit contest at Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery and Market, 9197 state Highway 42.

2 pm: Stumpf-fiddle contest in the main tent.

3-6 pm: Live music by Bacchus Lotus in the main tent.

6:15 pm: Fireworks over the ice.

5-8 pm: Candlelit ski/hike in Peninsula State Park.

10 pm: Live music by Ketchup at Hill Street, 4149 state Highway 42.

Feb. 410:30 am: Fruit Loop Run runs through downtown Fish Creek. A post-race party and bloody marys will be held at Bayside Tavern, 4160 Main St.

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