Stockholm revives family winter traditions with annual carnival

1 year ago

STOCKHOLM, Maine — For the first time in more than two decades, families from Stockholm and surrounding towns joined forces for a day of winter activities.

On Saturday, hundreds of children and family members gathered outside the Stockholm Community Center for the first revived Winter Carnival. The snow-covered hills behind the center, groomed by local volunteers, became the perfect venue for sled, snow tube, ski and snowshoe races.

Though all events were timed, that did not stop folks of all ages from having fun. From pre-K and kindergarten youth to the oldest adults, everyone laughed aloud as they fell off sleds or sent snow flying as they wiped out on their snow tubes.

Lena Barnet, 8, of Stockholm pulls 8-year-old Tevny Germain of New Sweden on a sled during Stockholm Winter Carnival’s boat team relay races. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

Not taking themselves too seriously seemed to be the goal of everyone involved, and that’s exactly what Stockholm’s new recreation committee wanted to see. Even if they had to dodge the occasional runaway snow tube.

“It’s so exciting to bring back such a special part of our childhoods,” said Stockholm resident Lena Lowry, who volunteered as the race announcer. 

The town was also bringing back a crucial part of its own history.

Stockholm held its first Winter Carnival in 1937, with the traditional sled, snowshoe and ski races evolving from wooden equipment to the more modern ones we see today. The town ceased hosting its own Winter Carnival in 2006, two years after the local school closed.

Stockholm partnered with New Sweden for a combined winter carnival for many years, with the location alternating between the two towns. But after New Sweden’s school closed in 2017, students began attending classes in Woodland or Caribou. A decrease in community volunteers led to New Sweden and Stockholm discontinuing their carnival.

Elsie Theriault, 5, of Stockholm kicks up some snow while sliding to the bottom of the hill during Stockholm Winter Carnival’s snowtube races. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

But since then Stockholm has gradually seen an increase in young families and a revived recreation committee, which formed in 2020. The committee is hoping that the new Winter Carnival will become an annual tradition, along with expanded summer and fall activities.

“[Without a winter carnival] people were missing out on a sense of community. It’s a chance to cheer on adults and children and just have good old family fun,” said Recreation Committee Chair Lindsey Theriault.

The carnival also attracted many of the town’s newcomers, including Joanna Gervais of Stockholm, who watched her children Sage, 13, Quinn, 10, and Jameson, 5, compete in the races. The Gervais family has lived in Stockholm for five years and did not attend previous versions of the town’s Winter Carnival.

“It’s fun to see them bring back all these older events,” Joanna Gervais said. “It keeps the kids active and the community more connected.”

Naomi Theiss, 9, of Stockholm comes to a stop while competing in the snowtube races during Stocholm Winter Carnival. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

Hazel Scher, 7, of Madawaska Lake speeds down the hill during Stockholm Winter Carnival’s snowtube races. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

Jameson was one of several brave kids who opted for a small sled instead of a snow tube during the downhill races.

“I like sledding down the hill,” he said.

Many who attended Winter Carnival were also anxious to purchase Stockholm Rec-themed t-shirts in support of the town’s new inclusive playground

So far the recreation committee has raised $160,000 for the playground, which will feature wheelchair ramps and sensory-based equipment for children on the Autism spectrum or with intellectual disabilities. The committee hopes to break ground this spring and raise an additional $40,000 to purchase the remainder of the equipment.