Frosty Fortress

Ice Castle Out, Snow Castle In For Winter Festival

February 15, 2013
By Remington Whitcomb ( , The Post-Journal

On the opposite end of death and taxes, the weather is rarely guaranteed.

Such is the case for the upcoming Presidents Day Weekend Winter Festival in Mayville. As a result, the traditional ice castle which makes an appearance almost every year has been foregone in favor of a more practical snow castle.

"Last Thursday night we measured the ice at 3 inches, and then we saw the forecast of warm temperatures through last weekend," said Ken Shearer, president of the Mayville Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce. "We knew we wouldn't have enough ice, so we decided to do something different. I contacted the town of Chautauqua, and between the town and the village, they started bringing snow in and piling it up. They just kept on doing that until we had a huge pile of snow."

Article Photos

Due to uncooperative weather, Ken Shearer, president of the Mayville Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce is presenting a snow castle this year instead of the annual ice castle. The castle is shown above earlier in the week during the construction process.
Photo by Jaala Haskins

Shearer said that with the help of some construction equipment, the snow castle began to take shape. Though snow isn't as sturdy as ice, the castle has been tested for integrity, to ensure it is stable and safe.

Additionally, the snow has given event organizers the opportunity to get creative: in the form of a snow slide down the back of the castle.

"It's a pretty tall children's slide," said Shearer. "There are stairs to the top of the castle, then there's a slide in the back toward the lake. Just earlier this week we built a halfpipe on the back of it, as well. It doesn't look like a traditional castle - it's a pile of snow that they carved ... it's been difficult to build, but we're very happy with how it turned out."

Shearer said that no other material other than snow was needed to help the castle maintain its shape.

"We just kept packing the snow down with (machines), and we're sure none of the snow in the castle is going to move at all," said Shearer.

Fortunately for Shearer and those who plan on attending the festival this weekend, below freezing temperatures are forecasted to prevail into next week. Even if it doesn't snow, this presents the opportunity to use a snow machine, which has been donated by Peek'n Peak. The generator to run the snow machine has been donated by the Chautauqua Institution.


The Presidents Day Weekend Winter Festival kicks off tonight at 6 p.m. According to Shearer, there's going to be entertainment for the whole family.

"Our grand opening is (tonight) at 6 p.m.," said Shearer. "We're going to light the castle and perform our opening ceremonies. Following at 7 p.m., we're going to have something called a snowball dance, which is free for all ages. It will be supervised by adults, so children are encouraged to come. The dance lasts until 9 p.m."

Following the snowball dance, there will be a toga party at the Lakeview Hotel at 10 p.m. There is no price for admission, however guests are encouraged to bring their own togas.

The festival will resume on Saturday at 10 a.m., when venders will set up and a snowshoe demonstration will take place.

At 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, the cold-water rescue team from Dewittville will perform a rescue demonstration.

"They're going to get out there in the water and show exactly what happens when someone falls through the ice and what happens when they need to be rescued," said Shearer.

Immediately following the rescue, a polar bear swim will take place. According to Shearer, this is the fourth year the festival has hosted a polar bear swim, and every year more people sign up to participate.

"Last year we had some folks come down from Buffalo just to do the swim," said Shearer. "You wouldn't think people would be getting in line to jump in the lake in February, but who am I to second guess what makes some people happy. We're just glad to host them."

Starting at 1 p.m., the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club will be giving snowmobile rides around the park.

At 2 p.m., a chili cookoff will take place. According to Shearer, forms will be available at the festival, so no pre-registration will be required. All guests who would like to participate should bring enough chili for judging.

At 2:30 p.m., a snowball throwing contest for distance will be held, followed by a parade at 3 p.m. By 7 p.m., a bonfire will be started, and fireworks will begin at 8 p.m. Throughout all of Saturday, horse-drawn carriage rides will be available, and Rainbow the Clown will offer face painting for children.

"We're really excited about the fireworks show this year," said Shearer. "We've hired a new company, and the show should end up lasting about 10 minutes longer than it normally does."

The festival will resume on Sunday at 11 a.m. Snowmobile and carriage rides will be available throughout the day.

Beginning at 2 p.m., a snowman building contest will be available for children. The festival activities will conclude at 3 p.m. with a Lego building contest.

Admission to the festival is free. According to Shearer, some parking locations will ask for a $5 donation, however in return guests will receive a coupon which will offer them $5 off a meal at participating restaurants in the Mayville area.

For more information on the Winter Festival, please visit