Winter Carnival 2016
Re-birth of a Tradition
by Terry Allen
February 29, 2016
The raucous Laser Tag war at the PAC on Friday, February 19th was the first event of the four-day Winter Carnival presented by Main Street Pinedale and their several scores of enthusiastic volunteers.
As teams of hitmen ran, jumped, screamed and attacked each other, a calm and in charge volunteer teen counselor named Nathan Lee smiled and said, "one of the perks of the job is I get to pick up a laser once in a while and ambush snipe the kids in the games." Just then, Sawyer Siefkes took careful aim and scored a direct hit on an opponent’s weapon. Sierra Hattan who seemed to spend as much time flying thru the air as on the ground remarked, "It is fun shooting other people. I just like to wound them though," she said. "My style of play is me against everybody else." Ian Cantu let out a triumphant yell and exclaimed, "I had the coolest kill," he said. "I like slid in fast and they were all right there and I shot them all." Flopped and twitching bodies littered the floor. Rider White sporting a comfortable Mohawk haircut expressed pleasure in the game. "Laser Tag is like shooting zombie people that come back alive and then you get to shoot them again," he said.
JJ Huntly took us on a tour of the PAC pool room where we found swimming coach Sue Pflughoft conducting a clinic in one end of the pool while recreation coordinator Amber Anderson was jumping to block a ball in the water polo competition.
Around sunset, a big fire truck from the Sublette County Unified Fire District pulled out of the station and headed up Burzlander Sledding Hill. Fred Boyce and his men disembarked the truck and made their way down the path to the fire pit where in The Wyoming Way, they ceremoniously lit the Welcome Bonfire. Big Owen Turnipseed was the very first sledder to arrive and wasted no time in dragging his Red Flyer up the hill and sliding down before his mother Lizzy was quite ready. Jason Essington brought out a bottle of Winter Mead and shared it around the fire, but of course the firemen were on duty so they politely declined. Campfires inspire stories, so we heard about the old time days of the Winter Carnival where they had horse pulls in the middle of town, bonfires that got outside the ring and how over-partying folks had gotten a ride home from a deputy rather than a night in jail. When Jason Essington proudly recounted the time his two-year old son had stolen his first car, there seemed to be general agreement that there were plenty of good old days yet to come.
Early Saturday morning Mike Harker and his team of Knights of Columbus volunteers at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church cooked up enough buttermilk pancakes, thick smoked bacon, oatmeal and spicy quiche’ to fill the bellies of 200 customers. Amberlen Stone said the bacon was the most popular item. "One guy ate like a full mound of bacon and then came back for more." Tegan Bowers was the oatmeal server and said; "only two people had it."
After the hearty pancake breakfast, folks headed up to White Pine for the NASJA Sanctioned Ski-Joring contest. No one seemed to know the exact origin or meaning of Ski-Joring, but everyone thought it sounded Norwegian. Jon Gibson saw someone dressed in bear fur and thought it might have been some sort of early method of bear hunting called, Chumming for Grizzlies.
In any case, local cowboys and cowgirls brought their best sprint horses and teamed up with local skiers and pulled them thru a snowy two jump obstacle course. The fastest time from timing eye to timing eye won, as long as you didn’t lose hold of the rope or fall down or get tangled up somehow and not cross the finish line. There was a pro class which among other things meant there was money involved, so it was expected there would be less waving at the pretty girls and boys as you went by. It was a good idea to take the slack out of the rope between the rider and the skier before you dug the spurs in, otherwise the skier would get jerked right out of his bindings and do a sort of horizontal Tarzan and Superman flying thing until gravity turned you into a sort of snow plowing Harrower thing…until you let go of the rope.
Holly Roberts didn’t get jerked off her skis, but she seemed to have got tackled by a Cinnamon Black bear on both runs down the track, but it was later learned that she had shot the bear about four years ago and since it was too small to mount, she turned him into chaps.
Some of those skiers cut pretty hard into the snow to make their gates and both Doc Sare’ and Clint Grimes had to fight a bit to keep the saddle from being moved down to where it didn’t belong with them in it.
After the Ski-Joring and just before the sun went down, there was a Kids Sno-Cross Snowmobile Race held on the cross-country ski course at White Pine. It was pretty skilled racing by kids not even three feet tall. Yet, they got airtime standing up on their running boards as they hit the jumps as fast as they could go. Everyone did good enough to get a medal and then it was warm up the fingers time around the charcoal grill.
Later that evening down in the Lovatt Room at the Pinedale library, the musically inclined got up on the karaoke stage to belt out their favorite songs. Songs from the movie Frozen seemed to be the crowd favorites, probably because the little kids were so dang cute. The songs were all about a fearless princess, a rugged iceman, a reindeer and a snowman who all set off together on a journey to find the sister of the princess who was trapped in an eternal winter. The songs seemed very appropriate for this area.
Sunday, The annual Sunny Korfanta ski race was held at White Pine. Some folks showed up in serious racing gear and others dressed in serious costumes. Cassy Johnston was pleased with the event and that it will be part of the yearly Winter Carnival. "All the participants ages 3- 80+ had fun racing down the course. Everyone received an award. The Korfanta family was there and was presented with a plaque in honor of Sunny that will hang in the lodge. The race will continue to be part of the winter carnival in the future," she said.
After the ski racing, folks moved over to the tubing hill for the big Cardboard Classic race. Around 18 vehicles made of cardboard boxes, string, glue and duct tape were entered in the various race categories. Dave Leniger, spokesman for the Worn Out Johnsons motorboat sled said, "We have a total of three man hours and two cases of beer into the building of our duct tape covered craft." Tom Noble speaking on behalf of Wendi, Brooke and Heather, said their vehicle evolved into what it became. "It started out as a tail, but then it morphed into a dragon," he said. "We have 25 man, woman and kid hours into it, and about 15 to 20 rolls of duct tape." Audrey Harker carefully guarding Silver Wing, smelled like fresh paint and warned anyone who came close not to touch it because it hadn’t dried yet. Jason Essington showed off his spectacular Viking ship. "We put several hundred man hours into it as well as enough alcohol to float a battle ship."
A couple hundred people lined the course and cheered as each sled came down the hill. Some sleds went straight down the hill and others immediately ping-ponged between the snow berms all the way down. Others started spinning and ejected their occupants out the back ends. A Viking ship careened out of control and spilled Vikings all over the track, but they climbed back in and made it to that evening’s massacre with plenty of time to spare. The Tae Kwon Do sled got stuck in a bank and a man dressed as Pancho Villa ran out of the crowd and got them started back down the track again.
The Worn out Johnsons were the last sled of the day and invited the photographer to come along for the ride, which he readily accepted and then began to doubt the wisdom of as the team pulled the sled higher on the mountain than any sled had ever gone before. Like a bunch of bobsledders, the team all ran alongside and pushed with one hand and held their soft drinks in their other hand until they reached their top sprint speed and then all jumped into the sled like river otters at the same time…without spilling a drop. It was immediately apparent to all involved though, including those at the bottom of the hill, that this was a much faster sled than all the others. The sled made a sound like a freight train and pushed a cushion of wind toward the people. They scattered like a covey of quail, and parents grabbed their kids and dragged them off the track. At about 60mph the crowd screamed and everyone in the sled felt something like a speed bump go under them and then someone’s dog was ejected out of the exhaust end. An instant later the sled crossed the finish line and plowed into six parked sleds throwing them into the air like leaves which then rained down trapping the occupants. The safety team ran onto the track with the Cardboard Jaws of Life and everyone was saved.
In fact, though a few cowboys got skinned up and knocked around over the course of the event, Mike DeWitt of Sublette County EMS said he didn’t have a single customer the whole time. Yeehaw!
At sunset the competitors dragged their Cardboard Classics to a wide spot in the road and stacked them high in a huge pile; and while they sang and chanted Viking oaths from a bygone era, a stately Viking touched them with his mighty torch and set them all afire.
Thus ended the re-birth of the Winter Carnival.
A huge thanks of recognition to the owners of White Pine Resort for their flexibility in letting Sublette County residents and competitors express themselves in The Wyoming Way.
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