There are few easier ways to get hooked on winter fun than the Maine WinterFest and Chevrolet Derby held at Point Sebago Resort and other Sebago Lake locations Friday, Feb. 22, to Sunday, Feb. 24.

The lure goes well beyond the prime catch of the biggest togue that will earn the winner a new snowmobile and the chance for a new Chevrolet Silverado after the state derby is held March 8 and 9.

From cross-country ski races to shopping for handmade crafts at the Ice Mall, the weekend promises something for people of all ages while also serving as the biggest charitable fundraiser of the year for the Sebago Lake Rotary Club.

Organizer Tom Noonan said more than $82,000 was raised last year for causes, including milfoil eradication in Raymond, Casco Rescue and the Maine Children’s Cancer Fund.

Noonan said attendance at last year’s festival might not have lived up to expectations, but the combination of more activities and public recognition of the event should swell crowds this year.

Whether racing in snowshoes, taking flight in a helicopter or hot air balloon, sledding through the giant ice sculpture of Rapunzel or playing a round of miniature golf, children can find a full day of fun, and those under 12 are admitted for $1.

The festival opens with the Hooked on Fishing youth fishing derby Friday, Feb. 22, at noon. The first 500 children age 12 and under to enter will receive a free fishing rig made by members of the Windham Gorham Rod & Gun Club. Registration is free, with the derby sponsored by ALR, a South Portland construction company that also manages warehouses, and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Registration is free and the derby will be held on Thomas Pond adjacent to Alyssa’s Motel on Route 302.

Adults will also find a wide range of activities, whether shopping in the Ice Mall, dancing at Point Sebago Resort beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, or watching the motorcycle and car races on the ice beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22.

The hardiest of attendees can also take a plunge into Sebago Lake during the Shaw’s Polar Ice Dip at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23. Proceeds go to the Maine Children’s Cancer Fund, but those who think swimming is meant for summer can also help by attending a pancake breakfast beginning at 8 a.m.

Festival events are largely centered around Point Sebago, but the catch of the day for derby entries can come from anywhere in Sebago Lake. Weigh stations will be set up on Raymond Beach at Jordan Bay, the Standish boat ramp and Jordan’s Store in Sebago on Route 114 near Nason’s Beach.

More than fish will be judged, though. On Sunday, Feb. 24, the best ice shack, as determined by representatives of the Kittery Trading Post, will win a $50 gift card to the store. Second place will be worth a $24 gift card.

The Kittery Trading Post also sponsors snowshoe races for children and the cross country ski race on the golf course at Point Sebago.

Admission to the festival is $5 per day for adults and $1 for children under 12. Three-day passes are also available and can be purchased online. For more information about the Maine WinterFest and Chevrolet Derby, visit the festival Web site at www.icefishingderby.com.

Windham residents Dakota Cummings, 13, left, Damian Cummings, 11, and Madison St. Peter, 14 did not catch any fish at the 2007 Maine WinterFest & Derby, but did take the bait for three days of winter fun on Sebago Lake.Reeling them in: Winterfest arrivesThe hardiest souls at the festival take a plunge during the Shaw’s Polar Ice Dip that raises money for the Maine Children’s Cancer Program. The dip will take place Saturday, Feb. 23 at 11 a.m. preceded by a pancake breakfast beginning at 8 a.m. at Point Sebago Resort.Turner resident Michael Hemingway, left, wins the 2007 Sebago Lake Ice Fishing Derby with a togue weighing more than 9 pounds and 31 inches in length. With Hemingway is tournament organizer Tom Noonan. The 2008 derby is scheduled for Feb. 23 and 24 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.


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