Winterfest opening pops off success


By Joseph Pratt



Chelsea Watkins and son Zane, just before the lighting

Chelsea Watkins and son Zane, just before the lighting


Joseph Pratt

The crowd gathering around the lighting


Joseph Pratt

Raies welcoming guests


Joseph Pratt

The Jaycees 84th Annual Christmas Parade had a larger turnout of participants this year, with more bands than usual and new groups joining in, to bring the holiday spirit in full force before the Annual Winterfest tree lighting and kickoff.

Hundreds of people gathered for both events and spirits were high.

The parade dropped the crowd off at the community’s favorite seasonal event, where ice skating, carriage rides, shopping, and merriment all began.

“I really feel that the parade and tree lighting and everything being scheduled all on the same day was really good, because everyone in the community knew when things were going on,” Friends of Portsmouth Executive Director Bryan Smith said. “There were a lot of people there. People are excited and it is going to be packed every weekend.”

During the countdown ceremony of lighting the tree, a nearby transformer blew and sent the crowd into darkness as Friends of Portsmouth’s Mike Raies was welcoming the crowd onstage and setting up for the countdown.

Despite the pop that sent the event into darkness, everyone continued on and the Christmas spirit persevered as if nothing ever happened. People enjoyed each other’s company, the rink continued for several hours, and the tree lighting was rescued by a long extension cord to the sounds of community cheer.

The Friends of Portsmouth never gave up on the Christmas season opening event.

The tree was decorated to the event’s Home Alone theme this year, with faux bricks, paint buckets, ornaments, and a giant, lit “Kevin!” sign on top.

“I love the theme. I watch Home Alone and Home Alone 2 nonstop. Every year that we have changed the theme has really been fun and people enjoy us being able to tie into them,” Smith said. “This year is no different, because people really enjoy Home Alone. The theme and extra pieces are a cool part.”

The event was still a success, and the electric was repaired in time for the season to continue on through the weekend.

The Winterfest season will continue with ice skating on Thursdays and Fridays, 4-8 p.m.; Saturdays, 12-8 p.m.; Sundays noon-6 p.m.

Santa’s workshop is opened the same time frame as the rink.

Carriage rides run Fridays, 4-8 p.m.; Saturdays, 1-4 p.m. and 5-8 p.m.; and Sundays 1-6 p.m.

Rides and skating cost $5.

There is a lot of moving parts to Winterfest and people may not realize how the festive scene is only possible thanks to over 300 volunteers that make the massive project possible. While most shifts have been covered, there are still a lot of open spots for volunteers to fill.

The group makes the work possible by filling entire shifts by groups of people from businesses, community service organizations, schools, clubs, and more. Executive Director for Friends of Portsmouth Bryan Smith said the group practices this approach, because attendance of volunteers is usually greater, whereas single volunteer attendance can waiver. Single volunteers are still welcome to participate, however.

“It is pretty straight forward work,” Smith said. “You’re working in the skate shack, handing out skates and collecting them back to clean them. You’re working in the Christmas store, bagging gifts and answering questions, finding a special shirt size or something like that. It is simple stuff.”

Interested volunteers can either email Smith at [email protected] or message Friends of Portsmouth on Facebook.

“I think volunteers leave with a sense of community pride,” Smith said. “They feel good, they enjoy it; I don’t think anyone has ever left Winterfest saying, ‘I’ll never do this again.’”

Smith explained that the pride volunteers leave with is likely due to the good spirits of the event and what it means to the community, especially the business community that can use all the help it can get.

Winterfest continues each weekend through the season.

“I think Winterfest as a whole brings out that huge nostalgia of Christmas spirit. You have all the lights, decorations, skating and carriage rides, the families coming down on the weekend with kids and creating lasting memories,” Smith said. “That’s what it really is, building lasting memories.”

Chelsea Watkins and son Zane, just before the lighting
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/11/web1_Lighting3.jpgChelsea Watkins and son Zane, just before the lighting Joseph Pratt

The crowd gathering around the lighting
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/11/web1_Lighting.jpgThe crowd gathering around the lighting Joseph Pratt

Raies welcoming guests
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/11/web1_Lighting2.jpgRaies welcoming guests Joseph Pratt

By Joseph Pratt

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved