Naples is known as a popular destination in the summer months, but its annual Winter Carnival rivals the Fourth of July crowds as the community comes out of hibernation to celebrate the “other season.”

The carnival kicks off Friday with snowmobiles assembling at Black Bear Cafe for a 6 p.m. torchlight parade.

“We have the groomers lead the snowmobiles for the parade. Anyone coming down Route 302 can see it because every snowmobile will have an airplane flashlight like the ones they guide the planes on the runway with. Seeing all those lights is really something,” said Dan Allen, Naples Winter Carnival chairman.

The parade is only about two miles, but it’s an interactive event with various stops to greet passers-by around town.

“The recreation department hosts a skating party at the town rink and we sort of crash it with our parade of snowmobiles,” Allen said. “We stop to say hello, give out some gift certificates and then we jump back on and go to the next place.”

After the rink, the parade continues on to Bear Bonz BBQ and then Bray’s Brew Pub before ending at the Tiki Bar.

But even without a snowmobile, Allen wants visitors to know they can follow the parade from start to finish.

“I tell people if they don’t have a snowmobile, you can follow in your car,” he said.

Saturday events kick off at sunrise with the annual ice fishing derby sponsored by Hannaford. In addition to cash prizes for both adults and kids, the first-place winner of the derby also receives his or her own personalized Wheaties box.

“The kid who won the derby last year had his picture on the Wheaties box. It was great. You can actually see it at Naples Town Hall,” Allen said of the extra fun feature for the kids’ derby.

The bouncy house opens at 9 a.m. Saturday on Long Lake and is expected to be a popular activity for kids.

“The bouncy house was nonstop last year. It was full from the time we opened it until the time we closed it up,” Allen said.

Saturday and Sunday will feature a drag strip for snowmobiles to test their speeds with radar runs on the 1,000-foot ice track and 700-foot snow track on Long Lake. All ages can participate as long as riders wear helmets and have a safety kill switch on their machine.

Kids without a snowmobile can receive free rides around the lake thanks to the Muddy River Sno Seekers Snowmobile Club. This club is also responsible for helping to organize the carnival.

Helicopter rides, which do have a cost, are also part of the fun and take off from the lake during daylight hours.

“The rides are about 10 minutes. The guy is a really good pilot and gives a great ride. Everyone who comes off it raves about how much fun they had,” Allen said.

When the kids decide they’ve had enough fun outside, games, movies and hot cocoa will be on tap at Naples Town Hall all day Saturday.

When dusk approaches, though, everyone will want to head back outside for the bonfire and fireworks show. But Allen offers a warning about the show.

“The fireworks begin promptly at 6 p.m. If someone is 10 minutes late, they’re going to miss it.”

But he assures visitors that it’s worth watching the clock.

“The fireworks are the icing on the cake while sitting around the bonfire,” Allen said. “Some people say they’re even better than the Fourth of July.”

Sydney’s Restaurant will host this year’s carnival party Saturday night. Although cocktails are served, the party is family-friendly, with lots of food and door prizes.

Carnival events continue through Sunday afternoon.

“This event wakes people up midwinter and gets people out of hibernation. If you want to find some fun this winter, come out to Naples,” Allen said. He also pointed out that “pretty much everything is free. You don’t have to have a lot of money to enjoy this event.” 

Staff Writer Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 791-6334 or at:

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