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Gun Lake Winterfest returns Saturday

The polar dip is a favorite event at Gun Lake Winterfest, for brave souls who run, jump or fall into the icy water, and for spectators. The 38th annual Gun Lake Winterfest will begin Saturday morning with a pancake breakfast, followed by activities for people of all ages. (File photo)




Karen Turko-Ebright

Contributing Writer

The 38th year of fun and frolic known as Gun Lake Winterfest will bring cold-weather fun Saturday, Feb. 15.

“We’re down to the wire,” Winterfest committee member Monte Baker said of preparation for the annual event at Yankee Springs State Park, 2104 S Briggs Road, Middleville. Most of the activities are free along with free parking and a trolley at the state park. 

Baker, along with Winterfest committee members Kim Bedford, Rex Roscoe and Liz Roscoe, started planning for this year's festival in May 2019. With a big event like this, there’s a lot of planning and preparation that takes place.

The festival debuted Saturday, Jan. 30, 1982: “Gun Lake Businessmen Plan Winter Festival” was the headline.

When Gun Lake native Bedford reflects on her childhood, she remembers special times when she was about 5 and through elementary school age when crowds were smaller and the venue not so big.

“I remember going to Winterfest with my parents when I was a kid,” she said. “Back then, it was held at the state park. There weren't any tents, just the stage.”

Bedford, who has served on the Winterfest committee for five years, said the event has changed over the years.

“The events have evolved, and so has the location,” she said of the return to the state park.

Last year’s Gun Lake Winterfest attracted approximately 3,600 people and raised $4,000 for charities, according to the festival board. It takes about 30 volunteers and more than $20,000 to put this event on, Baker said.

Another element that has never changed with Winterfest committees is the final week before the big day, when volunteers and the community continue to lend their support in helping to set up for special events and activities. Setting up is on the agenda this week for Winterfest 2020.

Tents are going up this week.

Saturday will start out with the Fireman’s Breakfast at Yankee Springs Fire Station from 7 to 11 a.m. Local firemen will cook and serve up a hearty breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausage.

The Polar Dip splashes off at 4 p.m. and requires a $25 charge with a T-shirt included. “Remember all you Polar Dippers can get a $5 rebate if you bring any item on our 'Paws with a Cause' Wish List,” Baker said.

More information is on the Winterfest website at the tab leading to Polar Dip and sign-up forms.

One question is always on the minds of many prior to the event: What will the weather really be like? A second question often follows: Has weather ever caused Winterfest to be called off or postponed?

“Winterfest has never been cancelled due to weather conditions in the years I've been involved,” Bedford said. “We've had years where it was so cold, the news was advising people not to stay outdoors too long, and we've had years where it was warm enough, we didn't need coats. It's Michigan in the winter. You never know what you're going to get.

“And for those really cold years, we have heated tents.”

Youngsters will have the opportunity to decorate cookies, make bracelets and other crafts, plus join in on a variety of games and face painting. A petting zoo and horse-pulled wagon rides are planned.

Older kids and adults can enjoy disc golf this year at the first annual Birdie Blizzard. There is a $5 charge for this event; registration is at

Five local beer brewers and a local wine vendor will be at the Brew Tent, which has a $5 admission charge and a $2 tasting fee.

The Gun Lake Winterfest 2020 itinerary is posted at and includes the following:

7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, euchre tournament at Wayland VFW Post 7581, 135 S Main St. Wayland. Baskets will be available to view and purchase tickets as well as 50/50 tickets.

The following events are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 15:

7-11 a.m. Fireman’s Breakfast at Yankee Springs Fire Department, 1425 S. Payne Lake Road, Wayland.

9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Birdie Blizzard registration and check-in. Birdie Blizzard first tee-off begins at 10 a.m.

10 a.m.-6 p.m. tents open at Yankee Springs State Park, 2104 S. Briggs Road, Middleville.

10 a.m. opening ceremony by the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi with raising of the flag by the Forgotten Eagles immediately following.

10:40 a.m. Gun Lake Idol begins.

10:50 a.m. 0.05 K race kicks off to open the Brew Tent.

11 a.m. Brew Tent opens.

11:40 a.m. logo winner presented.

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., bean bag tournament check-in.

1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Polar Dip registration.

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. kids crafts and games.

At noon, the Magic of Alan Kazman will be featured on stage.

Noon-4 p.m. wagon rides.

Noon-4 p.m. Mary’s Country Critters and Petting Zoo open up for visitors.

1 p.m. bean bag tournament starts, followed by the last Birdie Blizzard tee-off at 2:45 p.m.

4 p.m. Polar Dip begins

5 p.m. 50/50 raffle drawing

5:15 p.m. basket raffle drawing.

6 p.m. Winterfest conclusion with lowering of the flag.




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