Winterfest1
Held in Bend’s bustling Old Mill District, Oregon WinterFest celebrates all things winter over three days every February. (Photo credit: Brian Becker)
WinterFest2
The ice carving competition begins each morning of the festival with regional artists and ice carvers sawing, hammering and drilling to fabricate their icy creations. (Photo credit: Brian Becker)
Winterfest3
As you walk along the Deschutes River to get into the festival, attendees are greeted by the warmth and glow of dozens of handmade, one-of-a-kind fire sculptures crafted by local residents of Central Oregon. (Photo credit: Brian Becker)

Last February I headed out on a winter weekend getaway over the Cascade Mountains to the heart of Central Oregon for Bend’s biggest winter party, Oregon WinterFest.

Held in Bend’s bustling Old Mill District, Oregon WinterFest, happening February 17-19, 2017, is a three-day celebration of all things winter and a “massive party of fire and ice.”

What do I mean by fire and ice? Two of the main highlights of the festival are the fire pit and ice carving competitions. As you walk along the Deschutes River to get into the festival, attendees are greeted by the warmth and glow of dozens of handmade, one-of-a-kind fire sculptures crafted by local residents of Central Oregon — everyone from known sculptors, artists and blacksmiths to retired boilermakers. I was both amazed and awed of the intricate details of these beautiful pieces of art ranging from 12’ high to 18’ in diameter. I, along with many others, found myself sitting in front of these fire pits multiple times during the festival enjoying the functionality of these amazing pieces of art.

On the other end of the temperature spectrum, the ice carving competition begins each morning of the festival with regional artists and ice carvers sawing, hammering and drilling to fabricate their icy creations.  The live carving exhibit creates an interactive atmosphere and is a huge hit for kids and adults alike.  It’s quite cool (pun intended) to see what these talented carvers can do with the huge block of ice given to them.

For those who like a little adrenaline rush, Oregon WinterFest is bringing back Metal Mulisha, a troop of motocross stuntmen who perform gravity-defying stunts off of a towering 30’ ramp. Although this isn’t something you would normally think to see at a winter festival, I can promise you it’s highly entertaining and worth checking out.

In addition to the flying motocross men, one of my favorite parts of the festival last year was the K9 Flying Dogs Show. Whether you’re a dog lover or not, you can’t help but have a smile on your face while watching dogs of all sizes jump, flip, and dance their way to catch a Frisbee.

No Oregon festival is complete without an appetizing selection of food and drink options. Oregon WinterFest offers up just that with numerous food cart choices and a stellar lineup of locally-crafted beer, wine, cider and spirits to choose from. After grabbing some grub, I highly recommend catching one of the musical acts on the main stage. This year the headliners include indie pop band PHASES and reggae stars Jo Mersa Marley and J Boog. Check out the complete music schedule here.

If shopping for artisan goods and interactive demonstrations are you thing, there’s plenty of that to be found at the Marketplace, which features dozens of local vendors and an experiential fine arts area featuring hands-on metal and hot glass presentations. I was mesmerized watching some of these demonstrations last year.

If you’re thinking about bringing the kiddos, this is a great event for them. There’s a dedicated children’s area that features bounce houses, face painting, cake pops, balloon art and a petting zoo.

This year’s Oregon WinterFest offers a variety of one-time special events, including:

Friday, February 17 – Whole Foods Market Wine Walk

  • Embark on a tasting tour of fine wines as you stroll through the Old Mill District on the banks of the Deschutes River.

Saturday, February 18 – Kids Hot Cocoa Run

  • Children run from station to station building a cup of hot cocoa that is good enough for royalty. Stations will include fun ingredients to make the perfect cup of hot cocoa.

Sunday, February 19 – Royal Run

  • The Royal Run will feature a beautiful run through the Old Mill along the Deschutes River, with a mixture of paved paths and groomed trails. King, queen and jester costumes encouraged!

I can assure you that there’s something to be had for everyone at Oregon WinterFest whether you attend with friends, your family or even on a date. Admission is only $10 and well worth it for a fun day of wintry activities.

See the complete schedule for Oregon WinterFest here.

Where to stay: Eagle Crest Resort is the official lodging sponsor for the festival and are offering deals from $99 per night and $10 off golf green fees for the weekend. Click here for more details.

about author Allison Keeney

Allison Keeney is a part of Travel Oregon's Communications Team. When she's not blogging or photographing the thriving music scene in Portland, you'll find this native Oregonian exploring the many wonders of her home state, savoring the bounty of local craft beverages and eateries, and enjoying the company of friends and family.

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