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Copper Harbor kicks off holiday season with ...

Winter Wonderfest

December 11, 2009
The Daily Mining Gazette

COPPER HARBOR - Between roaring bonfires, midway games and horseshoe tournaments to a winter fireworks display, Copper Harbor sure knows how to throw a party.

"This is going to be pretty festive," said Copper Harbor Improvement Association President Staci Gibson about Winter Wonderfest scheduled for Saturday in Copper Harbor. "We're celebrating the holiday season."

Now in its second year, Winter Wonderfest kicks off at 1 p.m. in the Grant Township Community Center and Park. Santa will be passing out gifts for the children while the community center will be converted into a Christmas shop, featuring local artists and fine crafts.

"A number of shops, like the Mariner and the Loon, are going to have some items in there as well," Gibson said. "So we're looking forward to that."

A pie and cake sale will be held in the community center, along with CHIA's gourmet soup fundraiser, which Gibson said they will be passing out samples throughout the day. Children 12 and under can enter their name in a drawing for a new bicycle donated by Walmart. The winner will be announced after the fireworks.

Outside the community center, revelers can cozy up beside the bonfire pits in the park, snack on smores, sip hot chocolate and listen to holiday music. There will even be some old fashioned midway games for kids of all ages.

"It's something to keep people busy and active outside and then they can warm up by the fire," Gibson said.

Closing the afternoon festivities will be the Christmas lights display at dusk, compliments of Donny Kilpela, followed by an impressive fireworks display in the park.

"He puts on quite a show," Gibson said of Kilpela's lights. "It gets bigger and better every year."

Also that evening, the Copper Harbor Trails Club will be holding it's all-you-can-eat pizza party fundraiser at The Mariner North from 6 to 8 p.m.

"All proceeds are going to contribute toward the purchase of a new snowmobile for grooming the Copper Harbor trails," CHTC Vice President Sam Raymond said.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for kids, and children 5 and under are free. Live music will be performed by Gail English and Rob Fritz. The Mariner will have $49 room specials Saturday night.

Raymond said there are two ski trail systems in Copper Harbor. The Copper Harbor trail system, which begins at the community center, is approximately 8 kilometers of flat, easy rated trails, with a scenic loop. The second trail system is located at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, Raymond said.

"This is the second season for the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge Nordic Ski Center," he said, adding the trails are 13 kilometers, including 3 kilometers of new wooded trails that were built this past summer. "A lot of people who haven't been here before, they visualize the ski trails being on the golf course, which only a small percentage of them are."

Raymond said about 8 kilometers of trails have been specifically built and designed within the hardwood forest.

For snowshoers, there are 22 kilometers of trails that link between the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge and Copper Harbor.

Raymond said the trails at the lodge are professionally groomed daily using state of the art grooming equipment.

Beginning Dec. 28, the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge will officially open for its first winter season, serving lunch and dinner seven days a week.

"This is our 75th year since it was built and so we're doing $75 a night rooms as a special offer for winter," General Manager Cormac Ronan said. "That includes a free pass for the trails and use of all facilities."

Since it's their first year open for winter, Ronan said they're going to have an ice rink, toboggan hill and a snowboard terrain park built on site.

"That's the big one for this year," he said of the terrain park, which will be located on the side of the cabins on the north-facing slope. "We'll have it open all day and lit at night."

The ice rink will be situated on the tennis court, with a fire pit nearby for warming up and toasting smores.

"It's going to be really neat," Ronan said, adding the rink will be lit at night. "There's so much to do between all the activities in Copper Harbor and coming here and using the trails, skating on the rink or trying the terrain park. It will help make the winter a little shorter."

Raymond said the new terrain park, featuring a 300 foot gradual slope, is a new recreational resource and is the only one of its kind to exist outside of an actual ski area.

"The guys from Rhythm in Houghton are helping to design this," he said. "They're designing these special rails. Then they're going to have other features like a picnic table in there and a propane tank snowboarders can jump onto and slide off. It's going to be unique certainly for the lodge and Copper Harbor."

While the terrain park will have both a beginner and advanced run, Ronan said there will be a mini version for smaller children on the first hole of the golf course.

"We want to have something for every age group," he said. "So you'll have beginner, advanced and now the little kids will be able to play on their snowboards."

Ronan said there is no fee for using the ice rink, toboggan hill or the terrain park. However, there is a charge for using the ski trails.

Raymond said they will be holding different events at the terrain park throughout the winter.

Other events taking place in Copper Harbor include the Antique Snowmobile Run Feb. 19 through 21. The weekend includes an antique snowmobile drag race, antique snowmobile parts swap meet, two rides - one to Gay and back to Copper Harbor and another to the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge - ending with a morning ride to the top of Brockway Mountain Sunday.

"Antique snowmobiles is one of the biggest movements in the snowmobile industry in the country," said Mariner North owner Don Kauppi. "We get people who come in as far away as New York."

Signing up for the antique snowmobile run automatically enters participants in a drawing for a pair of 1971 Arctic Cat snowmobiles, which will be given away Saturday night.

March 6, Copper Harbor will be hosting its first ever Ice Fishing Splake Tournament. Sponsored by McCabe Distributing, Kauppi said a portion of the proceeds will go toward funding to help maintain the splake plant.

The remainder of the proceeds will go toward prizes for the largest fish.

The following weekend is the Copper Dog 150 sled race. The race begins in Calumet Friday night and ends in Copper Harbor. Racers will spend Saturday in the Harbor where there will be a rally and bonfire in the park. Sunday racers will make their way back to Calumet.

Since bingo was such a success this summer, Gibson said they're going to have it again this winter, beginning January 13. Bingo will be held at the community center from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday nights through the end of March.

Gibson said, "everyone has a lot of fun, there's a lot of laughing."

All proceeds go toward CHIA.

Other happenings in Copper Harbor include the Apres Ski Party at the Pines Resort Saturday nights from 6 to 8. Featuring live acoustic music, drink and food specials, Raymond said the event offers a chance for people to get together and socialize.

"It's a nice way to relax at the end of the day whether you're on skis or snowmobiles," he said. "It's something fun every Saturday night."

For more information about upcoming events, ski and trail reports, visit,, or

Editor's note: This feature is part of a paid advertising package purchased by the Copper Harbor Improvement Association. Businesses interested in being featured on the Business page may call Yvonne Robillard at 483-2220.



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