Houlton’s winter festival ends with snow-packed fun

HOULTON, Maine — Flashes of green, red, purple, gold and white streaked and exploded into a black winter sky in celebration of winter during Houlton’s annual Moosestompers winter festival on Sunday.

The 27th annual event, plagued by brutal wind chills on Friday and Saturday, revived on closing day with sledding and sliding on Derby Hill, monster truck rides, hay wagon and toboggan rides, ice skating, a half-dollar scramble, a blazing bonfire and hot chocolate for everyone.

The Moosestompers Weekend has always been about having fun outdoors during Maine’s long winters and that’s why families and lots of kids came out on Sunday. 

Despite the shortened event, Moosestompers’ final day was great, Houlton Director of Community Development Nancy Ketch said. 

The hay wagon rides ran all afternoon during the Moosestompers winter festival in Houlton’s Community Park Feb. 5. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

“There were lots of smiling faces with people enjoying the many activities going on. We extend our thanks to all those who came out to participate as well as all of the sponsors and volunteers,” she said. 

The Moose Maine-iah Monster truck rides went on all afternoon, and a steady stream of sliders zipped down Derby Hill.

Five-year old Colton Matthews said he was having lots of fun, despite snow rimming his hat and face mask. 

And for Clark brothers Paxton, 11, and Kamden, 8,  Sunday’s cold temperatures didn’t stop a full day of snowmobiling, getting Moose rides up and down Derby Hill and enjoying the nighttime closing fireworks. 

Paxton Clark won the People’s Choice for the Vintage Snow Sleds on Sunday.

Korinne and Colton Matthews take a selfie during the Moosestompers winter festival at Houlton’s Community Park on Feb. 5. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Life-threatening wind chills and two-day blizzard warnings canceled most scheduled events Friday and Saturday, but determined organizers braved Sunday’s early morning below-zero temperatures to get the festival up and running for its final day. 

By the time the sledding and sliding got underway, it was noticeably warner, Ketch said Sunday afternoon.

Most indoor events continued as scheduled. And on Sunday, the Half-Dollar Scramble for kids in Community Park was a hit as they dug and scraped through three different piles of snow in search of 900 half-dollars provided by The County Federal Credit Union, TD Bank, Machias Savings Bank and Katahdin Trust Company. 

The ATV/UTV/snowmobile light parade was a small one this year, but the handful of vehicles along with the hay wagon headed out for a pass around downtown right at 5 p.m. 

The winners of the 2023 coloring contest for ages 4 to 6 are Katianna McCluskey, Liam Howell, and the most creative, Esther Han. Winners for ages 7 to 9 include: Most colorful,  Jordin Hutchison; creative techniques, Wes Bell and Avery Bither; most complete and neat, Chyler Williams, and Liam Quint; most colorful and original, Charlotte Stewart. 

In the age 10 and up category, with judging based on most thoroughly done, neat and original, creativity, above and beyond and media techniques, Mason Anderson, Ava Blanche, Lydia Han and Lyndsay Little were selected. 

Spectacular fireworks closed the Moosestompers winter festival at Houlton’s Community Park. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Last year nearly perfect weather drew big crowds. This year’s attendance was lower because of canceled events, but considering the weekend’s arctic weather, Moosestompers was a success on Sunday afternoon, with some events running non-stop, Ketch said. 

“We are already looking forward to the 28th annual Moosestompers next year,” she added.

The weekend’s pièce de résistance was the 15-minute festival closing fireworks display with rapid-fire explosions of color by Central Maine Pyrotechnic. And if the cheers and car horn honking during the grand finale were a gauge of the audience’s approval, the show was a hit.