PORTLAND — If the city is going to be filled with mounds of snow, people might as well play in it, right?
That’s the philosophy behind Portland’s first  WinteRush, a week-long outdoor festival that will include ice sculpting, igloo building, snowball fights, shoveling contests and more traditional winter sports events.
Organized by the city’s Public Health Division and several local organizations, WinteRush is designed to get people outside and active.
Nicole Clegg, City Hall communications director, said organizers have received a lot of interest in the festival and expect thousands of people to attend events throughout the week.
“This is the first time we’ve done something like this, at this time of year,” Clegg said.
Most of the in-town activities will happen at Lincoln Park, across from the Cumberland County Courthouse. Events begin Friday at 5 p.m. with the International Snow and Ice Art Expo. Since it coincides with First Friday Art Walk, there will be a special art exhibit in Monument Square called “Cool Art.” (For more on First Friday, see firstfridayartwalk.com.)
There is a $3 admission price for part of the ice sculpture exhibit. Kids get in for $1.
There will also be food vendors at event locations, run by school Parent Teacher Organizations. All proceeds will go to the schools.
On Saturday, Lincoln Park turns into an igloo village and people are encouraged to stop by and help with construction. There will be snowball fights throughout the day, too. Other activities at the park include snowman building, snowman ring toss, snow painting, Hula Hoop contests and pogo sticking. (Should be interesting to see how that goes on snow and ice.) Those activities run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
At the same time, over at City Hall Plaza, there will be “The Wheel of Fun,” snow shoveling contests and a scavenger hunt.
There are organized Nordic skiing and snow-shoeing events on Saturday at parks throughout the city. For a full schedule of those events, go to portlandwinterush.com.  Deering Oaks Park, Payson Park and Riverside are all expected to have their ponds open for ice skating, too.
Also on Saturday, Feb. 7, is the Freezin’ For a Reason Maine Polar Bear Dip. To participate, go to freezinforareason.com. If you are sane and simply want to stand on the side, in appropriate winter gear, go to the Eastern Promenade Beach at noon.
There will be a Portland Freedom Trail walking tour during the lunch hour on Wednesday, Feb. 11. To participate, meet at North Star Cafe at 225 Congress St. at noon. Also on Feb. 11, DeLorme sponsors a geocaching event beginning at noon at City Hall Plaza and wrapping up at 5 p.m.
On Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, Tri-Maine’s Polar Bear 5K takes off from Peak Performance at 317 Marginal Way at 9 p.m. For more information and to register, go to tri-maine.com.
From 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Fort Allen Park, there’s a Winter Bird Walk with Friends of the Eastern Promenade and Derek Lovitch. Meet at the Gazebo at 8 a.m.
Finally, that evening from 4 to 7, 16 snowboarders and 16 skiers from Sunday River and Sugarloaf will compete for $5,000 in cash and prizes in Monument Square on a custom-built 30 foot staircase. There will be a D.J. and other entertainment.
For a full schedule of WinteRush events, parking information, places to warm up and restrooms, see portlandwinterush.com.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]


p-winterushadv-020409.jpgRich Obrey photo
Fourth-grader Haley Troiano adds an icy chunk of winter to the wall of a snow fort behind Hall School on Monday. Troiano and other students were getting ready for next week’s WinterRush Festival by practicing their building skills during an after-school program.

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