Ice sculptures and horse-drawn carriages set to visit downtown Port Huron

This weekend was supposed to be Chilly Fest, Port Huron’s annual winter festival.

But COVID-19 has no sense of community, no regard for tradition.

So the 2021 ChillyFest has been canceled due to safety restrictions on large gatherings. Hundreds of people attending a chili cook-off under a large tent just isn’t feasible right now.

Instead, ChillyFest organizers and Downtown Port Huron have created Winter Wonderland, a one-day festival where visitors can more safely stroll at their leisure while still taking in the sights and sounds of winter in downtown Port Huron.

Winter Wonderland begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23.

“We still had the date on our minds and we wanted to do something,” says Cynthia Cutright, director of the Port Huron Downtown Development Authority.

“With ChillyFest, it’s primarily centered on the vendor tent, which restrictions on gatherings won’t allow. So we took as much of the festival aspects as possible and moved it outside.

“Now our focus is on people walking through downtown.”

Winter Wonderland is a sort of walking festival, with some scheduled events yet plenty of opportunity to enjoy the attractions at one’s own pace — and personal space.

There will be live ice-sculpting at the Military Street pocket park from noon to 4 p.m. and s’mores stations and bag toss games set up at the Fort Street Dock Park. A scavenger hunt has been set up for the kids. And downtown businesses have hidden fuzzy penguin hats for people to find, too.

Downtown businesses are busy decorating 45 snowmen to be put on display. And horse-drawn carriage rides will amble along city streets, registration of which is available online.

It may be a slightly smaller winter festival when compared to ChillyFest, but there can be value in that, too.

“COVID-19 has us focusing on more frequent but smaller events rather than fewer bigger ones,” Cutright says.

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