Whether we like it or not – winter is here. Instead of scurrying indoors, how about embracing mother nature and enjoying the season’s wintry scapes? The City of East Lansing invites residents to do just that during Winter Fest, a wonderland of festive fun in downtown East Lansing. The 2023 event is set for Saturday (Dec. 9) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hannah Community Center.
The family-friendly festival is free and hosted by the East Lansing Department of Parks, Recreation & Arts (ELPRA). Attendees can take part in outdoor activities including ice carving demonstrations, s’mores at outdoor fire pits, food trucks, and indoor activities like games, concessions and the Winter Farmers Market. The Hannah Center is at 819 Abbot Road.
Justin Drwencke, administrative services coordinator for the City of East Lansing, oversees the community events division of ELPRA. Drwencke collaborates with staff to put on events year round, including the Summer Concert Series, Moonlight Film Festival, farmers market and Winter Fest.
“This is the second year we’ve held Winter Fest at the Hannah Community Center,” Drwencke said. “Previously, the event was held outdoors in downtown East Lansing and was known as Winter Glow for several years. Before that, it was even a winter event and chili cook off.”
The community center provides a good venue to enjoy both outdoor and indoor activities for people of all ages, Drwencke said.
“It’s a fantastic venue for the Winter Fest, because it provides everything we need for the community to have a great experience at the event,” he said. “There is an opportunity for members of the community to come out and have free parking at the facility. There are opportunities to do activities outside, but also come inside, get warm, and have access to restrooms and all the activities we have planned inside as well.”
Drwencke’s favorite aspect of the event is seeing the ice carving demonstrations.
“It’s really fun to see the shapes come to life and watch the reaction of the people watching it as they start to figure out what it’s going to be,” he said.
Last year’s Winter Fest was attended by about 2,000 people, according to Drwencke. Popular activities returning this year include the indoor Nerf battles, bounce house, photo booth, crafts with the East Lansing Public Library and local organization resource tables.
“We’ve also got some live entertainment planned,” Drwencke said. “The School of Rock [11 to 11:45 a.m.] is going to be doing some performances, the ventriloquist Richard Paul [noon to 12:45 p.m.], The Dangling Participles [1 to 2 p.m.].”
This year’s Winter Farmers Market will feature even more vendors inside the Hannah Center too.
“A lot of the vendors are familiar faces of the farmers market,” Drwencke said. “We’ve got our maple syrup vendor, pastries and baked goods, craft vendors, soaps, lotions, candles, custom rustic decor and crafts, and holiday-themed wreaths.”
Vendors include The Beeswax Barrn, Blackwolf Woodworking and Iron, Destica’s, Droscha Sugar Bush, Fur Real Dog Treats, G3FOOD4ALL, Jenny’s Sweets & Treats, River Tree Coffee Co., Rollin n’ Dough, Sapo de Solis, Starlight Farms, Summer Nights Apiaries, Sweet Potato Delights, Tantay Food Truck, Taqueria Monarca Food Truck, Where the Wild Things Bloom, Wooden Shoe Herb Farm and 517 Coffee Company.
Parking is free at the Hannah Community Center and overflow parking is available at the East Lansing Public Library and All Saints Episcopal Church, both on Abbot Road.
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