Mother Nature Comes Through

After the area labored through a string of gray and anemic winters with little snow, Baileys Harbor Community Association Marketing Coordinator Brynn Swanson felt put to the test last October when she had to submit copy about the town’s first Winter Carnivale for inclusion in the Door County Visitor Bureau’s glossy 2014 visitor guide.

“We were so afraid,” she said. “I had to commit to the dates and give a description of the event, and I was like, ‘I don’t know if we’re even going to have ice.’ So I was very vague.”

Brian Fitzgerald and Mitch Ciohon from Ephraim play pond hockey on Kangaroo Lake in Baileys Harbor in anticipation of the Winter Carnivale Pond Hockey Tournament this weekend. Photo by Len Villano.

But the memorable winter of 2013-14 has come through with enough cold to put a nice two-foot thick ice cover on Kangaroo Lake and enough snow to be the icing on the cake for the winter games planned for Saturday’s Carnivale.

“My brother and I kind of came up with the idea (of Winter Carnivale) because we’re really into four-wheeling, but there’s nowhere around here that really allows that,” Swanson said. “The only place we could do it is on Kangaroo Lake, so we developed this whole idea. We were trying to run with it and we started talking to Brian Fitzgerald. He said, ‘Let’s do this pond hockey thing too because it’s really taking off.’ Ok, we’re going to run with it and now it’s happening.”

Swanson admits the idea was also to give people a reason to get outside instead of suffering from cabin fever.

“It’s February and none of us really has anything fun going on. We want to get the locals out and get them involved,” Swanson said. “But we hope it grows into something people will actually come to Baileys Harbor for every year. I’ve gotten several calls from people in Illinois. I got a call from a family in Missouri who said they are coming up for the Carnivale. So I’m hoping it turns into Baileys Harbor’s winter event.”

Swanson said because her family is so into four-wheelers, she is personally looking forward to the time trials and radar run events, which are open to anything with a motor.

“I think a lot of locals will be bringing their snowmobiles, four-wheelers and even some cars. There’s a group from Sturgeon Bay that are bringing their dirt bikes up,” Swanson said.

Because there is little parking at the spot where the activities are taking place on Kangaroo Lake, a Door County Trolley will be running between the lake and Baileys Harbor Rec Park from 10 am to 2 pm.

“Everybody has been very, very supportive and helpful,” Swanson said about getting this event off the ground. “We’ve been working with a lot of the local businesses. Scott Williams of Nor-Door Flooring is donating all the carpet we’re putting down for the tent. The Peninsula Pacers are handling all the plowing and flooding for the lake for the hockey rink. Maxwelton Braes donated space to have the band in the supper club Saturday night. Everybody’s been super helpful.”

Brian Fitzgerald has 30 years of experience working outdoor ice skating and hockey rinks, but he learned flooding a lake is a completely different beast. Armed with ice auger, a gas-powered pump, hoses and a fire nozzle, Fitzgerald has been a human Zamboni, preparing the three rinks on Kangaroo Lake for the Carnivale – two pond hockey rinks and a family skating rink.

“We’re starting off small with the pond hockey tournament,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve got a team coming from Milwaukee and another from Green Bay, and a lot of locals. But I have gotten calls just this week from people who heard about the tournament and can’t make it this year but want to come next year.”

Pond hockey is a no-contact, uncomplicated game of hockey that barely requires referees, Fitzgerald said.

“It’s a very appealing game,” he said. “You can be 9 or 10 years old and playing with folks that play college. Everybody’s included, all ages, both sexes.”

This year’s pond hockey tournament will be an open division, but Fitzgerald hopes it grows to include divisions, such as the over 40 division that he and five other Door County hockey players dominated in the recent Leinenkugel’s Classic Pond Hockey Tournament in Wausau.

“I didn’t realize how much fun it would be,” Fitzgerald said of the Wausau tournament.