City to host major winter festival in Feb.

Published 5:45 pm Saturday, January 30, 2010

Organizers are calling it an event for people all over the region.

On Feb. 13 and 14, people from both inside and outside of Albert Lea will have the opportunity to take part in the city’s first major winter festival in recent years called The Big Freeze.

With something for every age group, the weekend includes a broomball tournament, polar plunge, chili cookoff, softball tournament, medallion hunt, children’s winter carnival, skydiving, snowmobile runs and ice fishing.

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On Feb. 13 there will also be a concert featuring the Canyon Cowboys, and food and beverages will be sold all day.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” said Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Susie Petersen. “I think it will be a fun event. There’s so many things that can come out of this.”

Petersen said the idea was prompted after Carter Wagner with the Joseph Co. talked about the success of the winter games in Okoboji, Iowa, and suggested maybe the community could try something out in Albert Lea.

A committee, with people from various organizations in the community, was formed, and planning began.

Petersen said at first the committee wanted to have activities on both Albert Lea and Fountain Lake, but the more they got involved, they decided to limit it to Albert Lea Lake.

Petersen and Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr said they hope the weekend will bring in people from out of town to stay in the city’s hotels and to take advantage of the food vendors.

One of the activities planned to build excitement leading up to The Big Freeze is a medallion hunt sponsored by the chamber.

Kehr said the first clue will be in the Feb. 7 edition of the Albert Lea Tribune, and every day through Feb. 12, there will be additional clues given in the Tribune and on Power 96 and KATE Radio.

Big Island Rendezvous & Festival organizer Perry Vining, who has organized medallion hunts in the past, will write the clues and hide the medallion, and when someone finds the medallion he or she is asked to bring it to the chamber, Kehr said.

He encouraged the person who finds it to keep it a secret, and then the winner will be announced during the weekend’s festivities.

The winner will receive $300 in Chamber Bucks.

Petersen pointed out that throughout the weekend festivities there will be a heated 40-by-100-foot tent where people can go in to get warm or to watch some of the activities near the Pelican Breeze boat landing.

Many of the activities will also be visible from Front Street as people drive by.

She said the committee organizing the event has posters circulating through other communities, and different colleges have also been contacted about it. There is also a Facebook page dedicated to the event.

For children, the Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Department has organized its winter carnival at Academy Park.

At the carnival there will be face painting, a prize wheel, crafts, giant games, snow volleyball, ice bowling and sledding, to name a few of the activities, said Jenny Davis, recreation program supervisor.

There will also be a cardboard sled race, with cardboard donated by Minnesota Corrugated Box.

The following is a description of each of the activities planned for the weekend:

Broomball tournament: Sponsored by Joseph Co., this tournament begins Saturday, Feb. 13, at 9 a.m. on Albert Lea Lake. The cost is $50 per team. Contact Carter Wagner at 377-0953 for information.

Softball tournament: Hosted by the Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Department, this tournament begins Saturday, Feb. 13, at 9 a.m. on Albert Lea Lake. The cost is $120 per team. To sign up contact Jenny Davis at This is a payback tournament.

Take a Kid Ice Fishing: Sponsored by the Fountain Lake Sportsmans Club, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, HT Enterprises and the Home Depot of Albert Lea, this event will be from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 13, on Albert Lea Lake. There is no cost, and there will be free ice fishing rods, buckets and jigs for the first 50 kids. For more information contact

Skydiving/tandem jump: Hosted by the Minnesota Skydivers Club, this event will be on Saturday, Feb. 13, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Participants must register by Feb. 12 by calling Bryce Nelson at 383-9377. Participants will meet at the main carnival tent and a bus will take them to the airport. Cost is a $50 deposit in advance, $210 otherwise.

Chili cookoff: Hosted by the Albert Lea Jaycees, the cookoff will be in the main carnival tent from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13. The cost is $3 per spoon. To enter the contest, contact Brady Gooden at 383-7617.

Polar plunge: Hosted by the Albert Lea Fire Department, this event will be at the Albert Lea Lake boat landing from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13. Participants are asked to bring a food item to donate to the local Salvation Army food shelf.

Kids winter carnival: Hosted by the Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Department, the carnival will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at Academy Park.

Snowmobile runs: Sponsored by the Snowmobile Club, this event will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, on Albert Lea Lake. For more information contact Dirk DeVries at

Concert: This event, featuring Canyon Cowboys, will be from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Feb. 13. Cost is $10 in advance and $15 at the door, including beverage services by Geneva Bar. Bust be 18 or older. Tickets will be sold at the chamber, CVB, Geneva Bar, Parks and Recreation Department and Doyle’s Hallmark.