Winterfest is here, with carriage rides, Santa’s workshop, ice skating, Christmas light displays and more after a grand opening this week following the Jaycees Christmas Parade.
The group welcomed hundreds to Winterfest Thursday night, where they had a concert, lit the tree, and opened the ice-skating rink.
“We had Jacob Tolliver and Mike Raies performing and the lighting for people enjoying the kickoff,” Friends of Portsmouth Executive Director Bryan Smith said. “It was a great evening, and we appreciate everyone who makes these events possible. It truly is thanks to 280 plus volunteers and donors who make things possible.”
As always, the FoP will continue offering Santa’s workshop as a winter wonderland escape from the cold this year. The location has rotated in its six years, being held in different buildings while they have been developed. Currently, the location is on Second Street, directly across from the festivities, in a building FoP owns.
“Santa’s Workshop is amazing this year, truly beautiful,” Smith said. “We’ve had some amazing features over the years, including the slide and other additions, but this one is one for the books. It is truly beautiful, and it will leave lasting memories.”
They’ve expanded their Christmas lights and even the ice rink this year, which Smith says is exciting.
“The ice-skating rink is bigger than ever this year,” Smith said. “We have more skates, too. We are getting bigger and better, and we are able to further our abilities to create lasting memories for families, because, otherwise, some people would never get to experience ice skating or any of this.”
Many gathered, just after the Christmas Parade organized by the Jaycees and President Gary Jenkins.
“It was one of the longest, with over 75 people in attendance,” Jenkins said. “This is such an important event, because it unifies the people of the greater Portsmouth area to celebrate the season, kick off festivities, and gives something for the kids to create memories from as they spend time with families.”
The event has brought a lot of attention to Portsmouth, which joins existing programs in the county that draws attention, from the Christmas Caves in Minford, Portsmouth Little Theatre’s annual Christmas shows, Cirque d’Art’s performances of Nutcracker Cirque, Shawnee State Lodge’s events and decorations, and more. One of the biggest compliments given to the festivities was the naming of Portsmouth as a Hallmark Hometown Christmas Town.
“We were honored to be named Hallmark’s Hometown Christmas in 2019 and recognition only continues to grow as we work to make Portsmouth a destination for Christmas celebration,” Smith said. “It is an honor to have people trust in us and talk about us and spread the word about what we are doing so we can serve more and more people and make lasting memories.”
Recently, Smith was named the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year, which is thanks to much of the work he accomplishes with Winterfest, River Days, Fourth of July, and more. Smith is the third Friends of Portsmouth member to receive the award. Regardless, Smith gave full credit to donors and volunteers who all work to make the events possible.
“I was shocked, honestly. I didn’t expect that. It is something that has been awarded to Tim Wolfe, and Jeremy Burnside and so many other amazing people and it truly is thanks to hundreds of people who make my work possible,” Smith said. “It wasn’t just for me. It was for the community. I never do this for the praise, just like most of our community doers. This is just a shock and I appreciate it.”
Stay updated on FoP Winterfest activities by following them on Facebook.
Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.