Frosty festivals: Area towns rolling out the white carpet to celebrate winter

City of North Liberty 

Runners are bunched up as they begin the 2017 North Liberty Beat the Bitter 5k-ish obstacle run. The 2018 run is slated for Feb. 3 in Penn Meadows Park.
City of North Liberty Runners are bunched up as they begin the 2017 North Liberty Beat the Bitter 5k-ish obstacle run. The 2018 run is slated for Feb. 3 in Penn Meadows Park.

Whether your idea of celebrating winter is indoors by a cozy fire or outdoors roasting by an open fire, local winter festivals can help turn the winter blahs into oohs and aahs.

Here’s a look at what’s happening.


Jan. 27

Snowballs are for tossing and dancing at this annual blast from the past, full of old-fashioned fun.

Warm up and get your blood pumping by running or walking in the Amana Freezer 5K. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. at the old Appliance Center behind the Woolen Mill, and the walk/run gets underway at 10 a.m. in front of the Woolen Mill. The route takes participants to East Amana and back. Fee is $30, and proceeds benefit the Amana Kolonieweg Recreation Trail. Awards, food and drink follow at 11 a.m.

If a wine and beer walk is more your speed, for $2 adults ages 21 and over can sample local wines and Millstream brews from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Market Barn at 220th Trail and 46th Avenue is the headquarters for outdoor games, competitions and skating on the Eisbahn Ice Rink. Warm up with open fire chili beginning at 11 a.m., and see ice- and chain-saw artists in action. Then from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., try your hand at crosscut log sawing, the Nagelhauen nail-driving contest, the Great Amana Ham-Put (flinging a ham shot-put style), Porkchop SlapShot, a Christmas wreath toss and ice fishing by casting a line over an ice wall to snag a prize. Other activities include a one-shot bag toss from 12:30 to 1 p.m. and a 1 p.m. beard contest.

Putt on over to the nearby Festhalle Barn to take aim at an indoor nine-hole miniature golf course from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Greens fee is $1.

Food, shopping, artisan demonstrations and a scavenger hunt are on the agenda, as well, at sites teeming with sweet treats, warm beverages and crafts.


But for a hearty start to your festival experience, step way back in time for a traditional breakfast at 9 a.m. in the Communal Kitchen, 1003 26th Ave. in Middle Amana. Cost is $15 and reservations are required at (319) 622-3567.

End your day with a five-course Wine and Dine dinner at 6 p.m. at the Ox Yoke Inn, 4420 220th Trail, Amana; call (319) 622-3441 for reservations. Or combine dinner and dancing at the Snowball Dance from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Millstream Brau Haus, 741 47th Ave., Amana; dance is free, food for a fee.



Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, North Liberty

Don’t be bitter about this winter’s deep freeze. Head outdoors for a week’s worth of activities sure to shake off cabin fever.

Fire & Ice Friday: Feb. 2, Penn Meadows Park, 170 N. Dubuque St. Free festivities include horse-drawn carriage rides from 3 to 6 p.m., hot chocolate and food trucks from 3 to 8 p.m., s’mores from 5 to 9 p.m., ice carving demonstrations from 3 to 8 p.m., a learn to curl seminar from 6 to 8 p.m., wood carving from 4 to 7 p.m., a community bonfire from 5 to 9 p.m. and 15 minutes of fireworks at 7 p.m. Other activities include tug of war, with kid and adult categories; fire baton performances at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.; a photo booth; and an Iowa Birds of Prey program from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 3: Winter games in the morning and afternoon include an obstacle run, curling and bags tournaments, kick ball, snowmobile rides, broomball and ice skating from 1 to 3 p.m., all in Penn Meadows Park. A 20-mile group fat tire bike ride will be held from noon to 2:30 p.m. beginning at Sugar Bottom Bikes, 325 N. Dubuque St. (all bikes welcome, but the route will go off-road). Sorry, but the evening snuggie bar crawl is sold out.

A full slate of affiliated events offers everything from a polar plunge from 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 28 in Centennial Park, 1565 St. Andrews Dr., to a snowman contest, board games, snorkeling from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Jan. 28 and 7 to 8 p.m. Jan. 31 in the North Liberty Aquatics Center, as well as arts and crafts, snow volleyball, a scavenger hunt and more.

Details: and


Jan. 27


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Head to the Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center Exhibit Hall, 300 E. Ninth St., to cheer the beers of winter and the brewers who make them. Sorry kids, this event is for adults only.

Hours are noon to 4 p.m. for Brewmaster ticket holders, and 1 to 4 p.m. for general admission. Designated drivers who don’t want to buy a ticket can shop and stroll the Iowa River Landing District. Brewmaster tickets are sold out; check for general admission ticket availability at Coralville City Hall, 1512 Seventh St., or John’s Grocery, 401 E. Market St. in Iowa City.

Participating brewers cover nearly every letter of the alphabet, from Alluvial Brewing Co. to Worth Brewing. Food will be available on-site, as well as at nearby restaurants.

Event proceeds benefit Coralville’s bang-up 4thFest and the Iowa Brewers Guild.



Feb. 16 to 18

This shopping, sightseeing and leaf-looking mecca just across the Mississippi River from Dubuque doesn’t hibernate in winter, and neither should you. Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, 444 Eagle Ridge Dr., is rolling out the white carpet for a weekend carnival.

Strap on your snowshoes, ice skates or cross-country skis for fun in the winter sun. If you want even more chills and thrills, take your sled and head for the 18th hole of the south golf course to slide down a 75-foot vertical drop.

Other features include evening hot-air balloon glows Feb. 16 and 17, bonfire, snow games, ice carving, the new Sasquatch Shuffle through the snow Saturday (2/17), and evening movies at the indoor pool Feb. 16 and 17.


l Comments: (319) 368-8508;



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