116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
NORTH LIBERTY — With the weather getting colder and January quickly approaching, that means North Liberty’s Beat the Bitter is just around the corner.
The seventh year of the winter festival kicks off on Saturday, Jan. 29, with games, ice skating and other activities throughout the week. Beat the Bitter is planned by the North Liberty Betterment group, which is led by city staff and about a dozen local residents, according to the event’s website.
The festival started in 2016 as a way to embrace winter, said Jillian Miller, North Liberty’s community engagement coordinator.
“We tend to just hibernate for several months,” Miller, who leads the planning committee, said. “There is stuff to do, and we just have to bundle up and do it.”
The festival in 2016 was smaller, Miller said, but it has grown year to year with more events, activities and sponsors.
The last Beat the Bitter, which happened at the start of 2021, scaled back some of the outdoor activities and offered virtual events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Miller said.
“We're excited to bring all the programming for our outdoor stuff back this year,” Miller said.
New this year are the 5K-ish Glow Run and North Liberty Lights.
North Liberty Lights, a free illuminated exhibit, will run through Feb. 27. Attendees will be able to walk through tunnels and take pictures with snowflakes, penguins, polar bears, deer and other color light displays. The exhibit will turn on each night at sundown.
“We had always kind of dreamed about some sort of lights display,” Miller said, adding that there are ideas of what the display could look like in future years.
The glow run is a fun run around Liberty Centre Pond and will celebrate the unveiling of the lights exhibit. It is a change from the previous 5K-ish obstacle run. The glow run is all ages and all ability levels, Miller said. Participants can run, jog or walk.
The glow run will take place on the first day of the festival, Jan. 29, at 6 p.m. Registration is required. Participants will receive a glow-in-the-dark medal.
Favorite events from years past — including Fire and Ice, the winter snowball tournament and Snuggie Crawl — will be back.
Fire and Ice is a free event on Sunday, Jan. 30, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Penn Meadows Park. There will be ice sculptures, fire performances, ice skating and horse-drawn carriage rides. The event will wrap up with a 15-minute firework display at 8 p.m.
“The fireworks are a huge hit for our Fire and Ice event, and that's always one of the fan favorites for Beat the Bitter,” Miller said.
Miller said there will be more ice sculptures than previous years, as well as fire performers.
“We have partnered with the Eastern Iowa Circus to where every 20 minutes, there's a 20 minute performance,” Miller said about the fire performers. “So there's really no chance of missing it when someone comes to the event now, which is great.”
There also will be photo opportunities at the event, including a giant inflatable snow globe, Miller said.
The Snuggie Crawl — a bar crawl of 400 people dressed in Snuggies — is back after a year hiatus. Registration is required for the event, which costs $59 and will take attendees to four locations around the city.
North Liberty’s outdoor ice rink will again be set up in Penn Meadows Park. Skaters can bring their own ice skates or borrow them from the Community Center at no charge.
Miller said volunteer opportunities throughout the week of Beat the Bitter will be available for those interested in helping build the lights display or at the other events.
The last day to get early bird pricing for events requiring registration is Dec. 31, Miller said.
A full schedule of events and information on how to register can be found at beatthebitter.com/events. Free events do not require registration.
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