Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bone-chilling fun at Winterfest

Little Willy's team members, from left, Nick Kincaid, Aaron Bly, Josh Whitney and Andy Weil, get ready to push 12-year-old Chelsea Jansen in an outhouse on skis during the outhouse races at Winterfest 2005 in Deer Park on Saturday. Although Winterfest's snow softball games were canceled, residents braved frigid weather to come out for some of the other activities. 
 (Holly Pickett / The Spokesman-Review)

How fast does a runner have to travel to outpace Jack Frost? As Steve Finley can attest, even a 6-minute-mile can’t overtake the bone-chilling byproducts of a minus-4-degree morning.

“My hands were pretty much numb by the end, and I couldn’t feel my toes,” said Finley, of Post Falls, while warming up after the Five-K Frostbite Footrace.

Saturday’s race is part of Deer Park Winterfest, a 21-year winter tradition featuring a day full of events and then fireworks.

During the run, the cold vaporized Finley’s breath inside his face mask, causing icicles to form on his eyelashes. Friend Darrel Monzingo of Spokane battled a frozen mustache but said it’s never too early or cold for Bloomsday training.

“You know you have to get out no matter what,” he said.

The cold snap, which boasted an afternoon high of 15 degrees, put the freeze on some festival events.

“The softball teams canceled because of the subzero temperatures,” said Jay Lindh, president of Deer Park Kiwanis, sponsor of the festival.

Indoor events were popular and crowds dispersed to locations that included Yoke’s Foods, which hosted the chili cook-off.

Jennifer Quaschnick and her father, Doug Tarlip, of Chattaroy, competed for the 14th year. The five-time winners added two cans of diced jalapeno peppers for extra punch.

“It has to cook for a long time and all the ingredients need to get to know one another and mellow out,” Quaschnick explained.

Her son, 3-year-old Gabriel Quaschnick, suffers from a rare form of cancer. This past Christmas, he was granted a Wishing Star Foundation wish that snowballed into a community-sponsored miracle that provided the tot and his parents with a Spokane Valley house rent-free for a year.

The house boasts a SpongeBob SquarePants-theme playroom for Gabe, who is doing well enough to play with other children.

Second-year chili cook-off contestant Bill Weger of Elk said you can’t please every palate.

“Last year I made white chili and it was too anemic for a red chili contest,” said Weger, who entered a traditional red chili.

Sara Taylor, an 11-year-old chili connoisseur, methodically sampled the four entries, casting her vote for “Labor of Love.”

“It had a great taste, and it wasn’t too spicy,” Deer Park’s Taylor said.

A few blocks away at the fairgrounds, 30 contestants used metal detectors to search for coins hidden in a snowy field.

Organizer Larry Bateham said this year’s treasure hunt attracted people from as far away as Montana, with one contestant driving up from his winter getaway in Arizona.

“A lot of the gang can’t get out and hunt during the winter so they go stir crazy,” Bateham said.

A meager crowd of spectators hung onto their long johns through several rounds of outhouse races. The outhouses are mounted on skis and pulled by four-person teams who grip poles attached to the sides.

For a girls’ team representing Rosauers supermarkets, victory went in the toilet when their outhouse veered off track while chasing Little Willy’s.

“We’re just taking it easy on them,” joked Mariah Hansen, 15, of Elk. “Really, we’re doing this for the T-shirts.”

The neck-and-neck finals pitted Runners Soul against Les Schwab Tire Centers, which inched ahead in the last seconds.

Les Schwab’s Jeff Thompson, of Chattaroy, said his teammates all run cross-country at Riverside High School.

Still, even youth and athleticism didn’t prepare the teenager for the cold. “This is my first year, and I can’t feel my toes or my fingers.”