Clad in matching winter hats that looked like cupcakes, Aline Weber and Payton Blesy, both 11, excitedly explained their snow sculpture as they awaited the judging results Sunday during Winterfest at Chestnut Ridge Park.
“Blizzard,” which looked like a kind of lizard, featured sticks for teeth and angry-looking eyebrows, a tail made of snow and a pattern of swirls on its sides, which the girls agreed was an inspired touch.
They walked away with third place in the “most creative” category.
“This is definitely my favorite part,” Payton, of Orchard Park, said of the snow sculpture contest.
Payton read online about all of the Winterfest activities and convinced Aline, of Lancaster, to join her.
“I kept saying, it’s going to be awesome,” Payton said.
Apparently, a lot of people thought Winterfest was going to be awesome. The event was free, so an attendance estimate was hard to come by, but the fest drew such large crowds that the parking lot was filled and had to be closed to vehicles for 20 minutes.
The line for chili cheddar fries, hot chocolate and other concessions snaked all the way through the park casino, and the picnic tables inside were full.
Last week’s string of single-digit temperatures made Sunday’s 25-degree afternoon feel “like it’s 50,” said Troy P. Schinzel, Erie County parks commissioner.
Schinzel echoed the comments of many there that the clear skies and sunshine made for perfect conditions and, whether it was Winterfest or not, the park would have been crowded.
Nancy Farmer of Lancaster has been coming to Winterfest for years with several generations of her extended family. She warmed up inside the casino, and she brought soup and roast beef for her group.
“The weather is beautiful,” she said. “It’s a good day to do this.”
Bob Summers II of Cheektowaga was like a lot of parents, pulling his son, 3½-year-old Bobby III, on a sled.
“We’ll probably check out the bike race and snow sculptures,” said Bob’s wife, Kim.
Snow was everywhere, except around the snow sculpture area, where families scraped the grass to have enough for some elaborate designs.
Violet Backes, 6, was making a dragon with her toddler sister and parents.
“We’re big fans of ‘How to Train Your Dragon,’ ” said Violet’s dad, Todd Backes of Orchard Park.
Mountain bikers competed in races, bowlers tried to knock down pins in the snow, and the sledding hill was filled with little kids and parents who were overheard suggesting they might need “chiropractic realignments” before the day was over.
Glenn Colton offered a concert inside the casino, and hay rides were available for $3.
Maple syrup made at the county Bureau of Forestry on Genesee Road also was for sale.
The event was organized by the county and the Orchard Park Recreation Department.