EASTHAMPTON — The Easthampton WinterFest is returning for its 11th year this season with a bevy of seasonal activities for people of all ages to enjoy.

Volunteers from the Nashawannuck Pond Steering Committee, as well as its accompanying nonprofit Friends of the Nashawannuck Pond Inc. spend their time bringing awareness to the challenges the pond faces like invasive species, erosion, silt infiltration and recently cyanobacteria, which has affected the water quality.

According to Beth Tiffany, a treasurer of the Steering Committee, the WinterFest is a major fundraiser that helps support the health of the Nashawannuck Pond. Money raised from the event through sponsorships, merchandise sales and donations are typically used for pond preservation projects, like herbicide treatment for invasive Eurasian milfoil back in 2023.

Much like the past couple of years, this year’s WinterFest began on Jan. 1 and continues throughout the rest of January and early February before culminating in a full slate of events on Feb. 10.

Tiffany said a $500 Massachusetts Cultural Council grant was awarded through the Easthampton Cultural Council for the WinterFest.

“We’re really grateful that the Easthampton Cultural Council supports our WinterFest,” Tiffany said.

This year’s fest features fan favorite events leading up Feb. 10 like the ice cream flavor contest, paper snowflake making contest Chili Cook-off and bingo at Abandoned Building Brewery. The events prior to the actual WinterFest day are a combination of online and in-person.

“We created online events during COVID-19, and they’re so popular, especially the photo contest, the snowflake making and the [Nashawannuck] Pond trivia,” Tiffany said. “We get a lot of Facebook comments and likes so we decided to keep them.”

For the first time ever, the WinterFest will feature a Polar Plunge on Feb. 10 from 3 to 4 p.m. at Nashawannuck Pond thanks to the Easthampton Fire Department, the host of the event. According to Tiffany, anyone can participate in the plunge.

“We’re really excited about the Polar Plunge,” said Amy Marsters, the president of the Friends of Nashawannuck Pond Inc. “It’s a great opportunity because it’s on the pond, so it ties in nicely with what we’re doing.”

Tiffany said that a new event called Family Jungle Entertainment will also be part of this year’s WinterFest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 10, which features an educational exotic animal and reptile shows throughout the day.

Additionally, the fest will host “The Yo-Yo Guy,” a comedy yo-yo show spearheaded by John Higby, who has performed in 26 countries and currently holds four Guinness world records. He has two shows during the day: one at 10:30 a.m. and another at 1:15 p.m.

Also new is an open skate and a youth open skate at the newly-minted Easthampton Skate Club in Eastworks on Feb. 10. According to the WinterFest website, an entry fee of $10 is required for those two events.

Aside from the new events, the WinterFest will also feature fan favorites like the horse-drawn wagon rides, the puppet show with Tom Knight and a magic show with Ed Popielarczyk.

“Those events are always very popular,” Tiffany said.

The funds raised during WinterFest this year will help the ongoing monitoring of cyanobacteria in the pond. According to Tiffany, when cyanobacteria blooms, it can cause chronic and acute health hazards to animals, plants and people.

The money raised from the festival will also be used to continue the evaluation of retention walls installed in 2001 on the park side of the pond for shoreline stabilization.

“The purpose of the retention walls is to keep sediment out of the pond,” Tiffany said back in the fall. “But we’ve noticed damage and deterioration, so we have to be proactive before the walls don’t do their job.”

Currently, Tiffany said that the goal is to get a breakout of the areas that need to be maintained the most.

“It’s going to be a very time-consuming and laborious thing,” Tiffany said, of the stabilization project. “Right now, we’re trying to get a quote.”
Typically, the festival brings in anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000, according to Marsters and Tiffany.

Readers can learn more about the festival by visiting the WinterFest website at nashawannuckpond.org/winterfest.html.

The Steering Committee and Friends of the Nashawannuck Pond are currently looking for more volunteers to help with the event. They have a little over 20 as of press time, but they are aiming for 70.

Readers can sign up to volunteer through the volunteer website at signup.com/go/WUqQfqx.