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Charlevoix Winter Carnival

Winter has arrived in Charlevoix, blanketing the area with fresh snow and causing the lakes to freeze. To some, the snow, ice and freezing temperatures are a nuisance, but Charlevoixites feel fortunate to live in a region of the Mitten State that affords them the opportunity to partake in every winter sport imaginable. This fact was expressed in the January 27, 1926 Charlevoix Courier which stated, “You [Charlevoix residents] have every facility before you for outdoor sport during the winter. Get out and try a little of it and at the same time convince yourself that Charlevoix has as much to offer in the line of winter sports as any other place in the country.” It was decided that Charlevoix would host its own winter carnival extravaganza.

A winter sports committee was formed to organize and advertise a two-week winter sports festival that would take place Feb. 1-15. The festival would kick off with a parade featuring recreation enthusiasts, a marching band, floats, sleighs, and snow plows. Sporting events included: bobsledding down Bridge Street, skating competitions, hockey matches, and tobogganing and skiing at Mt. McSauba. Leisure sleigh rides and an informal dance was held at the high school concluding the festival. Charlevoix did not hold back in showcasing itself as a winter sports playground. The festival was advertised in the Detroit News, Chicago Tribune, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and many other papers.

Charlevoix’s first organized winter sports festival was a success and the winter sports committee decided to make the festival an annual event. In 1927, the event was renamed to the Charlevoix Winter Sports Carnival and the committee shortened the event from two-weeks to two-days. Along with the previous year’s sporting events, three new ones were added, “coasting” (sledding down Bridge St. for best distance), “fancy skating” (figure skating), and dog-sled racing. “Liberal” prizes were awarded to the winners of each event. It was requested that businesses close between 2-6pm to allow Bridge St. to be “iced” for the sledding activities. “Forget business troubles and get out and enjoy yourself,” urged one Charlevoix Courier writer. It’s thought that over 3,000 people lined Bridge St. to watch the events. Second story windows were packed with spectators and some climbed to the roofs to get a view.

From 1928-1931 the Winter Sports Carnival continued to grow. 1928 saw the addition of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, horse races, and skijoring on Lake Charlevoix, a sport where an individual on skis is pulled by a dog, horse, or automobile. Ice boating and ice fishing were popular activities even though they were not part of the organized events. 1930 saw the crowning of the first Winter Carnival Queen, Miss Angie Scott, and her Lady-In-Waiting, Miss Dorothy Griffin. The Carnival waned during the Great Depression but continued through the 1930s.  It’s unclear why the Carnival ended, but it lives in the memory of Charlevoix.

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