This past weekend I took the family to the Mendon Ponds WinterFest – while it had looked shaky just a week ago with such warm weather, the final week before was cold and snowy. It was perfect – we started on the southwest side of the park, where there were hosting sled dog races. We watched a few of the teams take off and finish the three mile course, and if you’ve never watched even a short race like that, you should. Until then, I always thought of these dogs as seriously overworked – but to watch their eagerness when they’re clipped to a sled is amazing. They absolutely love it, and the only thing cruel about this is not letting them run right away – the dogs simply can’t wait to get going.
We then went over to the main park offices and Nature Center, where they have recently opened a center for injured birds of prey. They had several redtail hawks, golden eagles, kestrels and two owls on the trainers hands – the kids loved this, too. There is also apparently a bobcat there, but it was hiding when we visited. EMS set up a small winter camping demonstration, but it seemed as if they could have done a bit more.
We finished by going to the fields by Stewart Lodge, which sits on the Hundred Acre Pond. There were hundres of kids sledding down the glacial kames of the park, but we strapped on our snowshoes and walked out onto the pond to see the ice-fishing demos. They hadn’t caught anything, but the demo and explanations were enough to interest my kids – not to mention the fact that they were thrilled (and scared) to actually be walking on the frozen pond.
We managed a short hike in the snowshoes, but it was pretty cold (14F) and the kids wanted to cut it shorter than I would have liked. We did stop in the lodge to talk to the local Nordic Club, who was giving free lessons and had plenty of equipment to borrow, but it wasn’t enough to keep them going any longer. Too bad – I would have liked to have joined the large gathering of skiers.
The bottom line is that I highly recommend the festival to anyone in the Rochester area – it was well organized, and there was more than enough to do for all ages, and all abilities. Rochester’s winters have been the brunt of east coast jokes for years, but for many of us who live there, it is winter time when the place really comes to life. The WinterFest proves that, and was able to show many locals new ways to enjoy the cold.