CRYSTAL TOWNSHIP — With an up-and-down winter season so far this year, conditions are officially up in the air regarding next weekend’s Crystal Lake Winter Festival.
Days in January have exceeded 50-degree temperatures, but festival organizers are hoping a string of cold temperatures expected this coming week will help create ideal conditions on Feb. 11.
“We are hoping for some cold temps at night to get the ice going,” Festival Co-chairwoman Deb Powell said. “This year we do have a lot more volunteers willing to help out, everyone wants to keep the Winter Festival alive and we can not do this without all the people that have helped, from selling raffle tickets, help to put tents up, to all the leg work and phone work that was done.”
Regardless of conditions, several events will remain as scheduled that don’t depend on icy conditions on Crystal Lake, including pony rides at the Crystal Community Center — which were introduced last year successfully as a new event — the chili cook-off at the Crystal Lake public beach, and craft show at the community center. The festival will again include sledding at Crystal Township Park and ice skating on Crystal Lake.
The signature event, the Polar Dip, will depend on ice conditions on the lake, according to Crystal Township Fire Chief Scott Brundage.
“We figure we’re probably not going to be really know anything until next Tuesday,” he said. “We’ll drill a hole to check the thickness of the ice, but we need at least a foot of ice —12 inches — to have the event.”
Brundage is unsure of current conditions on the lake, as they have been changing rapidly with fluctuating temperatures.
“I have no idea what it is like right now, the weather has been so up and down, he said. “Two weeks ago we had about 8 inches, but since that time we’ve already had two small vehicles go through the ice. Thankfully, no one was hurt.”
If the polar dip is held, Brundage said extra safety precautions will be taken after last’s years tragic accident at the festival when two individuals — Lee Avery and Emily Patin, both of Crystal Township — died after an ORV they were on went through two fences and into the hole in the ice in the evening hours.
“The plan is to get some orange barrels on each corner of the hole after we put the ice back in place,” Brundage said. “The barrels will have flashing lights, and we will still the 100-foot perimeter fence, as well as the fence around the hole.”
The festival serves as the largest fundraiser for the fire department, as plungers receive pledges for the department. After donations received the past two years, the department was able to purchase a new thermal imager.
“It’s been a great fundraiser for us,” Brundage said.
Pending weather conditions, the polar dip will begin at 3 p.m. on the lake, preceded by an ice rescue demonstration at 2 p.m.
Powell said she hopes this year’s festival will prove to be as enjoyable as those in recent years.
“We still have a big day ahead of us but we know it will be a success,” she said. “I hope the sun will shine on us.”
The festival will end with a firework show on the lake at 6:30 p.m.