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Ohiopyle's Winterfest expands fun

One of the most popular draws at the Ohiopyle Winterfest is the horse-drawn sleigh rides that take place all afternoon.

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Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Ohiopyle State Park is one of the most popular and visited parks in the state, with its 20,500 acres of water and wilderness a big draw for whitewater rafters, hikers and bikers.

But the park is not only a warm-weather destination, as it offers a wonderful array of fun and entertaining activities and events for visitors to enjoy year round, and one of the most popular cool-weather events is the annual Winterfest, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

“We have this event to get people out in the winter,” Ohiopyle Environmental Education specialist Barbara Wallace said. “We want folks to know that Pennsylvania State Parks are open 365 days a year, regardless of the weather. Our goal is always to provide a place for our citizens to recreate in the great outdoors no matter the season.”

The event will be held at the Sugarloaf sledding area, just a few miles from the main park area. Winter enthusiasts will be able to try snowshoeing and cross-country skiing — activities that are offered at no cost.

Other activities this year will include snow fort building, capture the flag games, a snow snake and ice cube huts.

The event, celebrating its eighth year, has grown in activities and attendance.

“When we first started, all we had were a couple of Port-a-Potties and a big sledding hill,” Wallace said. “Now, thanks to park improvements and the help of Friends of Ohiopyle (FOO), we have a much-improved bathroom facility, a warming hut and heated dining tent. Activities have changed throughout the years, too. We always try and mix up the activities that we have so those folks who come every year will find something new. This year, we have added a couple of new family games, and we are going to try a human sled dog race.

“In order to participate in the human sled dog race, folks need to bring their own sled, a human to sit in it and a couple of other humans who are willing to pull them at top speed,” Wallace said. “It should be great fun.”

The event is sponsored by FOO, and the group will be helping with the event throughout the day and selling refreshments in the warming hut, where visitors can stop and get a bite to eat as they warm up to enjoy more fun.

With its winter fun and activities, the Ohiopyle Winterfest has become an event that draws people from all over the tri-state area.

“Turnout over the years has varied from a couple hundred to a couple thousand,” Wallace said.

Most events and activities, with the exception of the horse-drawn sleigh rides, are free.

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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