After eight years of the Winterfest celebration at the Camden Ampitheatre going strong, it nearly came to an end as locals decided how to get a town ice rink created.

Now Winterfest is back on, and the town may get its ice rink for good.

Volunteers working on the skating rink are optimistic the town will approve its construction and it will go in before January, said Michael Roy, who spearheaded the effort.

Roy came to Camden Winterfest last year, looked around and wondered why this beautiful, historic harbor park had no ice rink.

“I have my own ice skating rink in my backyard. It’s the third year for my girls, who play hockey. I drive around now looking for flat spots in town. I happened to be standing there, and thought, ‘That would be a good place for an ice rink,’” said Roy, who owns the Rockport building company, Phi Home Designs.

Winterfest will go on, regardless of whether the ice rink is approved by the town.

The festival has food, music and horse carriages, but the focus is the ice carving competition.

The event happens whether or not there is snow.

Huge ice blocks are brought in for competing teams to carve, with the help of professionals.

Camden has a history of winter festivals that dates back to the elaborate carnivals held in the 1930s.

And the Camden Amphitheatre has its own history since it was given to the town in 1931 by Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist.

But Winterfest has a different energy behind it.

While the Camden Snow Bowl’s U.S. National Toboggan Championships Feb. 11-13 offer a weekend celebration, locals wanted something in town to draw area youths and offer them a feeling of community in wintertime, said Winterfest volunteer Kristen Bifulco.

Winterfest was created 10 years ago specifically to gather and bolster young people in the area, Bifulco said.

“The idea is to get the children and teens into the park, so they feel a part of the community. The ice carving is not about this elitist thing, it’s more about that history, of getting children out of the house,” Bifulco said. “It’s to continue to build the community, and welcome our children to the parks. It’s a great small-town community, and a great small-town story of how everyone worked together.”

The one-day festival in the Amphitheatre lives on well beyond the day. The sculptures made my youths last anywhere from a week to a month in this “ice garden.”

Winterfest enthusiasts tried to build a rink a few years ago to enhance this community area, but it didn’t work.

Roy said constructing rinks along the coast is an art, but it’s one he believes he has perfected.

“Brunswick has three skating rinks in its town, Belfast has one. It’s something I really wanted to see our town have, to give the kids the opportunity to go skate. And hopefully it will take off,” Roy said. “It’s one way to enhance Winterfest. And the Amphitheatre is so beautiful, I wanted to find a way to attract people there. During the coldest two months of winter, people don’t seem to get out enough.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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