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McCall’s Winter Carnival gets back to its roots during pandemic

Ice sculptures are a featured attraction at the annual McCall Winter Carnival.  (McCall Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau/courtesy)
Ice sculptures are a featured attraction at the annual McCall Winter Carnival. (McCall Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau/courtesy)
Wire reports

From wire reports

McCall, Idaho, is preparing to celebrate 56 years of the McCall Winter Carnival.

Every year, the small town of 3,000 typically welcomes a surge of more than 60,000 people during the 10-day winter jubilee.

This year’s observance will run Jan. 29-Feb. 7. While the essence of the winter carnival will remain unchanged, many events will be altered to align with public health and safety best practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carnival-goers can expect to enjoy snow sculptures, vendors, family fun, outdoor recreation and the traditional small-town charm of McCall.

“At its core,” McKenzie Kraemer, of the McCall Area Chamber, said, “winter carnival was started to get people outside, break the cabin fever and build community. This is exactly what you will find this year, and something we could all definitely use.”

Some things will look different in 2021. Events, including the children’s torchlight parade, Mardi Gras Parade, firework shows, beer garden and main stage music will all be put on hold due to COVID-19.

“While we know it is disappointing to not be able to host these events,” Kraemer said, “they are simply going to have to wait until we are clear of the pandemic.”

Large gatherings are of particular concern, and the McCall Area Chamber’s commitment to the health and safety of residents and visitors means that changes needed to be made for the 2021 carnival.

The McCall Area Chamber, working in partnership with The Go Agency, a Boise-based event company, will continue to work on new, safe events to incorporate into the 2021 McCall Winter Carnival. This includes partnering with the numerous local businesses and nonprofits that host events during the 10-day festival.

“Many events may look a bit different this year,” Kraemer said, “but the spirit of winter carnival remains alive and well.”

The inspiration for the winter carnival dates to 1924, when McCall created the Payette Lake Sports Carnival, named after the large, picturesque, glacier-carved, sandy-beached body of water that provides much of McCall’s summer and fall allure. The sports carnival existed for several years before becoming an ice-breakup contest, which ended when gambling became illegal in 1941.

In 1965, the community rallied to bring back a winter festival to help promote the area’s skiing. This effort led to the first annual McCall Winter Carnival at Brundage Mountain Resort, which Ski Magazine has claimed is home to “the best powder in North America.” The two-day event included slalom racing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and snowshoe and snowcat races.

Since then, the gala has grown into the popular, 10-day festival known today. The McCall Winter Carnival continues to attract visitors and amateur and professional snow sculptors from throughout the world.

For more information, go online to VisitMcCall.org.

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