Much Ado About Winterfest

The Jim Lobdell Memorial Sled Dog Race

Contributing Writer
Jean Gomory

For the first time in three years Winterfest is once again up and running and waiting for you! Winterfest at Chapman State Park in Clarendon, PA is known for sled dog races, fun activities, food and craft vendors, and the ever-popular Polar Bear Plunge.

This year’s event begins on Friday, February 4th at 9:00am with a 32-mile sled dog race and continues at 4:00pm with a Meet the Musher Dinner at Kalbfus Rod & Gun Club (2178 Chapman Dam Road, Clarendon, PA. 16313. Adult dinners are $8, kids 11-17 are $4 and kids 10 and under eat free. Please bring a dessert to share.) Activities continue from 5:00pm-7:00pm with food and craft vendors and a movie night at the sledding hill provided by the Warren YMCA.

Sled dog races continue throughout the weekend starting at 9:00am both Saturday and Sunday. Twenty-seven mushers are on the roster this year. Not that many will be doing the 32-mile race, but there’s an 8-mile and 12-mile race mushers can participate in. According to Ed Atwood, current sled dog race organizer, this will be the only sled dog race in Pennsylvania this year.

Now named the Jim Lobdell Memorial Sled Dog Race, this event has been going on since 1979 and ran from Clarendon to Marienville and back again. The event took place over two days in temperatures of -25oF and -27oF each day. This first event started with ten teams. Not all the teams were able to finish. Sometimes, when a dog couldn’t continue, they would fold their legs in and allow themselves to be pulled along by the rest of the team. (It gives a new meaning to putting your foot down.) It was Ed Atwood’s job to pick up these pooped pooches and return them to a location where they could be reunited with their owners.

When asked about the sled dog races, Ed commented that, “you run into lots of interesting people”. For example, Al Tarr, throughout his career, had three lead dogs that eventually went blind. Following the wise advice of his wife, he put them in the team (instead of running lead), hooked them up to good running buddy, and they ran well in their new positions. Al isn’t running dogs anymore, but he comes back to help with the event at Chapman State Park. Mary Beth Logue has won this race several times. Her average speed is 17mph. I know that doesn’t sound fast, but in a sled, Ed described it like going 100mph in your car.

Besides the sled dog races, an ice-safety demonstration on the lake will be given by the Glade VFD at 1:00pm on Saturday; just before the Polar Bear Plunge at 2:00pm. The Polar Bear Plunge is a fundraiser for the Salvation Army’s Warren citadel and supports ongoing community efforts such as renter’s assistance, a food bank, and a soup kitchen. If you would like to support this cause you can register at A donation of at least $25 is required if you would like a t-shirt. You can register up until the day of the event, but early registrations help the Salvation Army supply enough t-shirts.

The Winterfest Polar Bear Plunge

If jumping into icy-cold water on an icy-cold day isn’t your thing it’s always fun to be a spectator. Major Keith Jache of the Salvation Army enjoys seeing the costumes people come up with when they participate in this bone-chilling, but worthwhile event. One year, a man decided to ‘sunbathe’ in a bikini on the snow-covered beach before taking a dip in Chapman Lake. Major Jache himself has taken the plunge wearing waders, which wouldn’t have been a bad idea had he not been convinced to go in over his head. As you could imagine, this had a rather chilly effect on his toes.

Personally, I like to check out the food and craft vendors. There’s a diverse selection of both this year. Crafts include handmade soaps, crocheted clothing, and pottery, among other things. Food vendors consist of coffee, a variety of concession foods, gourmet cookies, and more. Family games and activities will also be available Saturday and Sunday. Some activities on the schedule this year include an organized fat tire bike ride, a geomeet (geocaching), the Trivia Quest, sledding and ice fishing.

The Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry (WCCBI) would like to express their gratitude to generous sponsors and supporters. John Papalia stated, “We are very fortunate to have such wonderful sponsor support this year, as well as the support of many organizations and individuals that are working to make this a successful year.”

For more information about Winterfest and a schedule of activities, go to or the WCCBI Facebook page, go under “Events” and click Winterfest 2022.