By Emily Cutts
Seven-year-old Keighen Whitcomb sped down Center Street, spinning around and around before crashing into a bale of hay towards the bottom of the hill.
“It was good,” Keighen said of the ride.
Keighen, his 9-year-old sister Killyen and their mother, Crystal Whitcomb, joined dozens of others from the area in taking their turn at sledding down the street as part of the 14th annual Winter Fest.
“I think it’s great,” Crystal Whitcomb said. “I was excited my work schedule changed so I could be there.”
Mother Nature didn’t cooperate to bring the snow, so the city’s Department of Public Works did the work.
The crew spent Friday afternoon trucking in 24 loads of snow that had been stockpiled at Giorgetti Arena, the Rutland Regional Medical Center and Green Mountain Power on Post Road by crews from Carpenter & Costin. Making a base layer of snow and leaving the pristine white stuff for the top, a 100-yard run was made for the first-ever night sledding kick-off party.
Original plans to close Wales Street were altered, Downtown Rutland Partnership Executive Director Michael Coppinger said, as it would make passage through downtown difficult.
While the event was publicized as “BYOS” (Bring Your Own Sled), Coppinger said Killington answered the call and provided 10 sledding tubes for those who came across the event unprepared. As the event began, the plan to let people use their own sleds was quickly ditched in favor of the tubes.
“It’s the first time we’ve partnered with the Rec Department for Winter Fest,” Coppinger said. “We were very envious of the Rec Department. We thought what can we do in downtown? This was the most obvious thing.”
An hour before the event was set to begin, workers from DPW were taking a turn of their own down the slope. Recreation and Parks Department Program Director April Cioffi even took a turn down the hill.
As darkness fell and crowds began to gather at the top of the snow-covered street, kids and their adults waited patiently for their turns.
Lynn and Chuck Rose planned to make a night of the event and grab a drink downtown at Brix Wine Bar. Before they went into the warmth, the pair went down the hill.
“We wanted to try it,” Lynn Rose said. “It was just awesome. We went spinning around and around.”
Rose said she had clipped out the schedule and circled the events she wanted to attend.
The adults seemed to have just as much fun as the kids speeding down the hill. At the bottom of the hill, bales of hay stopped sledders from heading farther down the street and off the snow. Following the event, DPW cleaned and salted the roads.
“God willing, by morning, it will be like it never happened,” Coppinger said.
The rest of the weekend was filled with Winter Fest activities at Main Street Park, including ice skating and a snow-carving competition. On Sunday, the fun headed to Giorgetti Park with snowshoeing and the Cardboard Sledding Challenge.