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Sleigh festival returns Feb. 23

Hubbard Prairie Sleigh Festival returns Feb. 23

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Two years after restarting the Hubbard Prairie Sleigh Festival, the organizers are gearing up for the third year of winter family fun in Hubbard. The 2014 festival will be held in Hubbard from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday Feb. 23.

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This year’s theme is “Sleigh Bells Ring”. The festival will feature as many as 20 old-fashioned cutters and sleighs, and other horse-drawn vehicles.

The festival was begun in 1993 and was a popular community event until it lapsed in the late 1990’s Dick Schauer, owner of The Working Horse, Jim Johnson and a group of others revived the festival in 2012.

“That year we went without snow until early morning, when the snow really started coming down,” Schauer recalls. “It got so bad that some of the teams and drivers that were on their way to Hubbard turned around and went home without ever getting to the festival.”

Nevertheless more than 200 people turned out that first year to see the horse-drawn vehicles parading down the main street of town in the snowstorm.

“The first success was that so many people came out in the storm, and that the organizing team immediately wanted to do it again. That’s no small feat,” he said.

The festival is now a firmly established event in the little town of Hubbard. Last year, more than 800 people attended to see the parade of sleighs and participate in a multitude of events for both adults and children.

“Our goal from the beginning was to bridge the time when we were a small farming community, and there were a lot of things to do together in the winter,” says Marie Helfrich, early organizer and town booster.

“We wanted to join together from the standpoint of this is the core of who we are, with a lot of diversity, but also a great deal of common ground,” she said.

To this end, the festival not only includes the main parade of sleighs, but a growing list of family activities. Among other events are the popular snow sculpting contest, a pioneer winter encampment, dog sled rides, a one-act play at the Long Lake Theater and human cart race and all day bonfire.

Chili and cornbread are served in the Hubbard United Methodist Church, and hot chocolate and coffee are available all day at the community center. In addition, the Hilltop Inn will be open for hot chocolate, coffee and refreshments.

Festival headquarters is at the community center where the Long Lake Association will exhibit a choice selection of historic maps and artifacts from the area. Vendors will also be selling mementos and other items all day at the center.

Snow sculpting begins a week in advance of the festival. Large mounds of snow are piled in the lot adjacent to the center building, and are shaped into rectangular blocks with the help of specially-made forms, and heavy equipment from a local farm. Some sculptors start work as soon as the blocks ready; others wait until the morning of the festival.

One of the favorite events of the festival is a short play about life in early Hubbard, Johnson said.

“It is part history and part spoof, showing some of the people in the old town as they might have been in real life,” he said. “Last year we played to standing room only and had to turn many people away. This year we’re planning two performances so that everyone has a chance to see it.”

Johnson likens the effort of the organizing team to the rippling effect after a stone is thrown into the water. “We never quite know how far the ripples will go,” he says. “But in this case they are certainly spreading. It is nice to see people coming from all over the area with smiles on their faces and engaging with one another.”

“These things don’t happen on their own,” he added. “We have to create a good reason for people to come out on a winter day. That is what happens when the planning group gets together and goes to work. That’s exciting to me.”

Admission to the festival is a $5 button available at Beagle Books and at the festival.

More information and a complete program of events is available on the Hubbard Prairie Sleigh Festival Facebook page. For additional information call Marie Helfrich at

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Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers Hubbard County, courts and breaking news.

(218) 732-3364
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