Celebrating the season with Winterfest in Syracuse

The community comes together to celebrate Syracuse's longest season with 9 days filled with cook-offs, ice skating, music, games and fireworks.

When soft and fluffy snow covers the Syracuse landscape, the whole world is like a wonderland covered in white. And while the frigid fairytale weather might be more appealing from inside, even a thick layer of snow won’t stop people from enjoying the annual tradition of Winterfest.

The festival, which is mainly celebrated in downtown Syracuse and in senior centers across Onondaga County, has been hosted annually for 28 years. Winterfest is a carnival for all ages, featuring food and drink competitions, fireworks, ice-skating, cross-county skiing, musical performances and more. The festival normally lasts about 10 days, and it will be held from February 16 to February 24 this year.

The most popular event is Wing Walk. Participants visit different restaurants to taste their chicken wings and vote for their favorites. Among the longtime participants are Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and PJ’s Pub & Grill

The Chili Cook-off, at Hanover Square, is another popular event. Competitors prepare their own chili con carne and judges will pick one winner by taste testing. As is the Winterfest tradition, a fireworks display will be held at 8 p.m. at Destiny USA on February 14. 

Bill Cooper, president of Syracuse Winterfest, says that more than 100,000 people attend the event every year, and that this year’s event will feature new activities, including a soup cook-off.

Cooper also mentions that, with the support from The Post-Standard and Centro, the tickets for this year have already been sold out.  

“It is a good family event for all ages,” said Cooper. “It also helps the local community.”

Bill Naster, owner of sportswear shop Manny’s, still remembers the Winterfest of 15 years ago, when the festival made a 15-foot long sandwich in Marshall Street. The ice sculptures are another fun feature of the annual event, he said.

“It made people have things to do during the winter time,” said Naster. “It is a good thing for the city. It gets people outside. It is a fun thing to do.”

Todd Laidlaw, the manager of Shirt World and Greek Shop went to the Winterfest last year. He went to Wing Walk, where he went from restaurant to restaurant to taste chicken wings and cast his vote for his favorite. His vote went to Bull & Bear Pub, he said.

“It is a good idea,” Laidlaw said of the annual winter tradition, “It brings the city together.” 

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