MORGANTOWN — The pure excitement of a snowy winter day was celebrated Saturday morning at Chestnut Ridge Park at the 2019 Toboggan Festival. With snow blanketing the area earlier in the week, kids and parents came sporting boots and coats and carrying sleds to take advantage of the park’s sledding hill.
Cat Hinkle, the park’s superintendent, clad in pink bunny ears like Louise from Bob’s Burgers, who’s been working for the park for 3 1/2 years, said the Toboggan Festival is a long-running tradition that’s has been going on since the late ’90s and possibly longer.
“The building behind us was built for warming up from skiing, ’cause this used to be a ski slope as early as the ’50s,” she said.
The hill that is used for sledding reaches farther up but has since been covered in trees. Hinkle said she believes the trees were put there to make the hill safer. Since she’s began working at the park, she has maintained the tradition of the Toboggan Festival.
Kids played sledding games, such as limbo and Reindeer Rodeo, where sled riders coming down the hill threw hula hoops over plastic reindeer on each side of the slope. Prizes were available to participants.
Hinkle said turnout depends greatly on the weather. Last year, the festival was rescheduled four times. They had to do more spring activities, due to the lack of snow. This year, it definitely wasn’t a problem, as the street was lined with cars of people coming to enjoy the snow.
“This is definitely the most attended one that I have put together, for sure,” she said. “We had seven inches of snow yesterday for measurement. The high today is 40. We definitely could not have asked for better.”
Hinkle said the park is funded through county taxes as well as its own earnings, so it’s great to be able to do these events for free. She said many people have never been to the park before and the phone was ringing off the hook Saturday morning with people calling and asking how to get to the park.
“And there’s so few free activities in town, it’s great to be able to be like, ‘Come do this event with us,’ ” Hinkle said.
The park hosts concerts in the summer that do have a fee, but Hinkle said most of the child-based activities are free. There will be an Easter event and a Fishing Rodeo later in the season that come at no cost to the public.
The park does have a shop, where snacks and hot cocoa were also available for purchase on the cold wintry day.
“There have been a total of 200 people here today, and that is insane,” she said.
Hinkle said the park office is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in the winter. When it gets warmer, hours will be extended. The sled hill is open every day, and Hinkle said the park generally gets more snow than in Morgantown. The park’s Facebook page is updated regularly with snow and weather updates, for those who want to know conditions before hitting the hill.
“It’s a great community outreach,” she said.