SOUTH PORTLAND – Despite the lack of snow from the previous week’s rain and high temperatures, South Portland’s WinterFest nonetheless prevailed, with the obstacles being no match for the event that drew hundreds for its eighth year.

Chloe Robbins, 10, of Waterboro, prepares to launch down Sledding Hill at Wainwright Farms in South Portland in her cardboard sled. The sled was a “truck” designed to help save animals in the Australian brush fires. Garrick Hoffman photo

“There’s something for all ages,” said Sue Sturtevant, former president of the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary Club. “I just think it’s something we’ve enjoyed, working with the city of South Portland, and the sponsors – they’re so generous. They care about families and doing
something that’s free. It’s for everyone, and that’s what I love about it. It’s just been heartwarming.”

Because of the week’s weather, events such as dog sledding and the Youth Ice Fishing Derby were canceled or postponed, respectively; many others such as the hockey boosters food sale and L.L. Bean geocaching – a first for WinterFest – were moved to Wainwright Farms.

Yet Sturtevant still found reasons to be impressed, pointing to the number of events and activities taking place as well as the number of people, which she estimated to be around 300 attending.

Some of the activities included carriage rides, Touch a Truck, and an open skate session. Cardboard sled runs – with 40 custom-made sleds registered – took place on Sledding Hill, and fireworks went off in the evening.

Siblings Chloe and Kaiden Robbins of Waterboro were among the 40 cardboard sled crafters who participated in the run. Kaiden Robbins’ sled was a “battle bus” inspired by his favorite video game, Fortnite, and Chloe Robbins’ was a truck designed to help save animals afflicted by the Australian bush fires.

Michelle Ramirez of South Portland holds her daughter Zylea, 1, as they prepare a s’more at WinterFest. Garrick Hoffman photo

“I was watching an Australian YouTuber talking about the bushfires, and Grammy asked me what I wanted to do for my sled and I was like, ‘We should do one to raise awareness for Australian animals because they’re catching on fire and we don’t want more animals on the endangered list,” said Chloe Robbins. “The last time I checked it was 41,816 animals on the endangered list, and we don’t need more.”

Their grandmother Jennifer Robbins, who helped her grandchildren with the efforts, said they labored on their sleds for about a week.

“I’ve never had so much fun with these kids doing something,” she said, adding that the South Portland WinterFest, especially compared to the WinterFest in other towns, is “something so unique and cool.”

Anne Marie McCoubrey, branch manager of Bath Savings Institution in South Portland – the major sponsor for the event – shared her adoration for WinterFest.

“It’s a great family event and it brings communities together,” she said. “And it’s free.”

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