2023 brings the 25th Blowing Rock WinterFest event, with a calendar full of seasonal activities. From Thursday, January 26 through Sunday, January 29, everyone is again encouraged: don’t hibernate- celebrate!

The first Blowing Rock WinterFest was presented in 1998, created to bring celebration to a sleepy season. Since then, the festival has grown to present a wide variety of activities and events. Many have become highly anticipated, and festival coordinators are very excited to be able to bring them back this year. Back for 2023, the Polar Bear Plunge at Chetola Lake is arguably the most-loved event. Register to take a chilly dip in the icy water, or help countdown participants from beside the firepit, if that’s more your speed. John Carter of WBTV Charlotte returns as emcee, and the participant costumes are sure to delight.

There’s so much more packed into the weekend that you won’t want to miss, starting with WinterFeast, presented at Green Park Inn.  Sample a variety of culinary treats provided by several popular restaurants from the area. So many choices and an opportunity to expand your palate with some top picks from our local chefs!

The Chili Challenge and Beer Garden are a couple of staple events getting a refresh for this special milestone year. The Rotary Chilly Chili Challenge is a crowd favorite. Guests are invited to warm up and place their own vote for the best chili in town! All donations go to helping out the community through local non-profits. The WinterFest Beer Garden gives attendees the opportunity to experience some of the best local beers from around the High Country. New this year: these two events will be presented together in adjacent, indoor spaces.

“We had a lot of feedback of wanting to have the Beer Garden and Chili events closer together,” says John Goheen, festival coordinator. “And it makes a lot of sense, they really are a great combination!”

“Presenting the Beer Garden indoors offers a comfortable atmosphere that isn’t dependent on unforeseen weather conditions,” John adds. “And this year’s Rotary Chilly Chili Challenge will be easily accessible again; attendees can try all the chilis under one roof in Meadowbrook Inn’s beautiful Four Seasons Ballroom.”

While admission to WinterFeast, the Chili Challenge, and the Beer Garden are limited and require advance tickets, other festival activities are general admission and free of charge. The Ice Stroll, opening Friday night of the festival, features a collection of custom ice carvings hosted at local businesses. Be sure to stop by each one to take a look and maybe a photo or two. Live Ice Carving Demonstrations in Memorial Park are a centerpiece of the Saturday schedule. The talented team from Artisan Ice Sculptures will create masterpieces throughout the afternoon.

Also in Memorial Park, catch Snow Making Demonstrations hosted by Brad Panovich, Chief Meteorologist at WCNC Charlotte. He explains the science of snow with the assistance of a simple snow-making rig. Plus, he’s always happy to answer questions about weather, so stop by to watch the snow and say hello!

“Brad’s demonstrations are an excellent way to learn while having a ton of fun,” John says. “Especially for visitors who don’t usually get to experience snow!”

Festival attendees can also look forward to the return of the classic Pancake Breakfast fundraiser at Blowing Rock School and a fresh update to this year’s Downtown Hayrides. Cue up for a unique hayride pulled by a Humvee, courtesy of Speckled Trout Outfitters!

There’s even more, including the Silent Auction, Wine Seminars, Square Dancing, and Cork & Canvas classes. Don’t miss great activities all weekend just off Main Street, too, like the Festival of Lights at Chetola Resort and the Tomahawk Hill Winterhawk Tournament, Winter Duck Derby and Frozen Heart Adventure at Mystery Hill.

Several festival activities are free, some are ticketed. For a full schedule of events, tickets, lodging partners, event packages, and participation information, go to blowingrockwinterfest.com. Tickets and info are also available by calling 828-295-7851.

“With WinterFest back in full swing, we encourage everyone to come out and celebrate this exciting season that offers so many fun opportunities that are unique to our beautiful mountain town,” John says.

Blowing Rock is accessible from anywhere in the region, less than two hours from Charlotte and Greensboro, three hours from Knoxville and Raleigh, and five hours from Atlanta and Charleston. A wide range of accommodations is available; visit blowingrock.com/lodging for details.

WinterFest, which has been named a AAA “Top Pick” and a Top 20 Event by Southeastern Tourism Society, is organized by the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce and presented by Hendrick Luxury Group.