Winter Festival Brings 2500 To Grafton Lakes State Park
And Ice Fishing Contest Results
Grafton Lakes State Park held its 24th Annual Winter Festival and Ice Fishing contest on Saturday, January 24. A full schedule of family oriented events and some bright winter sunshine drew an estimated 2,500 patrons to the day’s festivities. The Park reports this is the highest turnout in the last several years.
“Whether the attendees were children with their families, mountain bikers, animal lovers, artists, fishermen, snowmobilers or outdoor enthusiasts – we had something for everyone at the Festival,” said Liz Wagner, the Grafton Lakes State Park Naturalist. “Most importantly, we had snow and sunshine!”
Two hundred and eleven fisherman and sixty children tried their luck ice-fishing on the five open ponds of Grafton Lakes State Park as part of the ice fishing contest organized by the Home Waters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The grand prize winner was Jeff Waytkus with a 26” pickerel (see full ice fishing results on p.14). He walked away with a hefty $350 prize for his efforts. Frank Cuttone, Vice President of the Home Waters Chapter, was pleased with Trout Unlimited’s first year organizing, saying, “The event went really well and was a great promotion of ice fishing for young people. Our mission is to conserve and protect cold water fisheries, and the contest provides a chance for people to appreciate what we have here in Grafton Lakes State Park.”
For its second year, the Polar Plunge was newly open to the public and organized by the East Greenbush YMCA Master Swimmers’ Club. Thirty adventurous spirits took the leap into the frigid waters of Long Pond as several hundred people watched in amazement. While onlookers wearing wool sweaters and down coats were busily trying to cover every bit of exposed skin, the Polar Plungers clearly welcomed the invigoration of the wintry breeze. The Polar Plunge benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
The event also featured several nature activities. Children met a Ball Python and Snapping Turtle, along with several other amphibians and reptiles provided by Dee Strnisa of the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center. The Wildlife Learning Company also came with a Wildlife of New York State display that included a lobster and barred owl. Indian Creek Farm was able to offer actual sleigh rides instead of carriage rides thanks to the ideal snow cover this year. Over 30 exhibitors shared craft activities and information on topics ranging from snowmobiling to animal tracking to Grafton Historical Society’s “Living off the Land” display covering the Town’s two hundred year history.
One of the new events at the Park this year was the Art in the Park exhibit and silent auction co-sponsored by the Friends of Grafton Lakes State Park. They had a fruitful day of fund raising, bringing in several hundred dollars to benefit their work on behalf of the Park in the coming year.
Some pieces from the art exhibit will remain on display in the Park Office and available for sale. Visitors
who wish to support the Friends and decorate their home with an autumn landscape painting or photo are encouraged to stop by.
Results Of The 24th Annual Ice Fishing Contest At Grafton Lakes State Park
1st – Jeff Waytkus – 26”
2nd – Ralph Alesio – 24”
3rd – Fran Amlaw – 22”
1st – Phil Hahn – 12”
2nd – Jeff Jones – 12”
3rd – Brian Jones – 11”
1st – Shawn Myers – 18”
2nd – Tom Chirasello – 15” (tie goes to earliest registrant)
3rd – Brian Ostrander – 15”
1st – Nikki Minkler – 24 7/8”
2nd – Zach Michaels – 24”
3rd – Ryan Philpott – 22”
1st – Gabby Broch – 10”
2nd – Bill Gundrum – 10”
3rd – Scott Bentley – 9”
1st – Connor Sabourin – 13”
2nd – Brady Sargood – 12 7/8”
3rd – none