Moosestompers still a go, officials say

HOULTON, Maine — The show must go on, according to organizers of a popular winter event held in the Shiretown.

The 25th annual Moosestompers winter carnival is slated to take place Feb. 5-7, with events mostly slated for Houlton Community Park.

Although Aroostook County is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, organizers are hopeful they can still pull off an event that is both safe and entertaining.

“We started meeting in September, like we always do, and the overwhelming feeling was that we needed to make this happen,” explained Nancy Ketch, one of the many organizers behind Moosestompers. “We figured most of the events are held outside, so we should be able to do some of the things that we have traditionally done.”

The group received the blessing of Houlton Town Manager Marian Anderson, as well as the Houlton Town Council to proceed with the event, Ketch said.

Moosestompers began in 1997 under former Town Manager Alan Bean, who took the idea from the event held on Loring Air Force Base. Prior to 1997, a winter carnival called the “YamaFest” was held in the area where Wal-Mart and Hannaford are now located.

The weekend is billed as three days of winter fun for the family and features a variety of activities for children and adults to enjoy together. Returning favorites include the Hogan Tire Skate Night, popular fishing derby and sliding under the lights on Derby Hill in Community Park.

Because Gov. Janet Mills has placed restrictions of 100 people for outdoor gatherings and 50 people for indoor gatherings, in an effort to reduce exposure to the coronavirus, a number of popular events will not be held this year.

That meant things like the half-dollar scramble, which found children digging through a snow pile for 900 half-dollar coins; the popular snowdance with Morris the Moose; snowmobile rides and horse-drawn carriage rides all could not take place in 2021.

A number of events will still take place, including sliding on Derby Hill, free public ice skating in the John A Millar Civic Center, a fishing derby on area lakes and cross country skiing and snowshoeing courtesy of the Houlton Recreation Department.

Also in the works is a snow creation contest that challenges people to come up with unique snow sculptures. This event was changed in 2017 to a Facebook photo contest. People who live within 20 miles of Houlton can build a snowman, snow sculpture or any other snow creation at their own home and submit the photo to the Moosestompers Facebook page by Thursday, Feb. 4.

A full schedule of events will be posted at a later date.

“So many things have had to be canceled because of COVID, and so many people have lost on events that if there was any way for us to do this safely, we felt it was important for us to try,” Ketch said. “Because this is largely an outdoor event, and people are generally covered up for the winter temperatures, we feel we can do this safely.”

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