Sharri MacDonald stood atop the Giant Snowhill at the Old Orchard Beach Winter Carnival in the pouring rain Saturday morning and refused to despair.
Even though temperatures were in the high 40s and puddles of water were growing around her, MacDonald said there was a big positive to the springlike conditions.

The Giant Snowhill in the middle of Old Orchard Street, built by volunteers with snow moved from a town parking lot two days earlier, was just about the only place in southern Maine where there was enough snow to go sledding, MacDonald noted.

“We are making it happen no matter what,” said MacDonald, president of OOB365, the civic organization that has sponsored the town’s celebration of all things winter for the past seven years.

But the mild weather has put a damper on winter festivities elsewhere in Maine.

Fishing derbies have been canceled. The National Toboggan Championships in Camden were cut short and moved because of thin ice. Winter Family Fun Day in Aroostook State Park was called off Saturday because of insufficient snow, The Associated Press reported. The Wilderness Sled Dog Race in Greenville was postponed from Feb. 6 to Feb. 27, and hopes are pinned on a storm projected for midweek to restore enough snow for the races to go on next weekend.

Normally, Caribou has recorded 75 inches of snow by this time of year, but the region is running 22 inches short, according to a National Weather Service meteorologist quoted by the AP.

But a few communities, such as Old Orchard Beach, have managed to make the best of the melting mess. When life hands them a pile of slush instead of a fresh blanket of snow, they make Slurpees.

Despite the rain, 600 sledders appeared at the Giant Snowhill in Old Orchard Beach on Friday night.

Sophia DelSignore, 6, showed up for a children’s breakfast Saturday at JJ’s Eatery Too with her grandmother, Karen Fino of Milford, Massachusetts, and her great- aunt, Donna Leon, of Northbridge, Massachusetts.

“She said sledding last night at the carnival was a dream come true,” her grandmother said.

Meanwhile, at the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region Winter Carnival at Highland Lake Beach on Saturday, Jenah Pare of Waterford said she rejoiced in the mud and the slush underfoot. Pare was planning to take her fifth annual plunge into the icy lake as part of the Freezing for a Reason annual polar dip to benefit the Harvest Hills Animal Shelter.

“This is the first time I have gone in above-zero weather,” Pare said.

Dan Harden, Winter Carnival chairman, said whether to go ahead with the festival was a tough call. The dog sled races and snowmobile rides had to be canceled early on. Then rain loomed in the forecast.

“It was a big decision Thursday night whether to continue,” Harden said.

But with the lake ice measuring 8 inches thick, enough to allow the youth fishing derby to go on, and everyone excited about the fireworks Saturday night, the carnival was given the go-ahead.

The 500 to 800 people who usually turn out for the carnival, which has been around for about 20 years, still showed up.

“It’s a community event and gives families a chance to get out,” Harden said.

Harden judged Saturday’s events a success and much more pleasant than a couple of winters ago, when it was so cold it hurt and a northern gust upended the Winter Carnival tent.

Rick Marston of Bridgton operated his 2007 Russian Ural motorcycle through the mud with his two 8-year-old basset hounds, Molly and Fred, in an open sidecar.
“This is great. It is going to be an early ice-out,” Marston said.