Winterfest 2013 In Grand Rapids

Posted at 5:57 PM, Jan 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-11 19:21:41-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Winterfest 2013 starts Saturday, Jan. 12, at noon near Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.

The 34 hour event benefits the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation – an organization providing free ice time, equipment and ice hockey coaching for underprivileged kids.

Although organizers and Griffins players are excited, one question remains: will is it be cold enough outside to keep the ice rink frozen?

“Fifty degrees is the magic number,” said Randy Cleves of the Griffins Youth Foundation. “There’s three  inches of ice there, so there’s really no danger of it melting away.”

As most can imagine, ice is big part of the event; not only will it host demonstrations like skating, curling, even broomball, the biggest fundraiser of the weekend is the 24 hour Great Skate Marathon that starts at 10 p.m. on Saturday featuring Grand Rapid’s favorite Griffins players and coaches.

The Great Skate is free, but a donation pledge can be made at by clicking HERE.

Cleves said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the skating activies, thanks to an under-rink refrigeration system that keeps the ice at about three degrees – good news for the Youth Foundation fundraiser.

“(Griffins Youth Foundation) actually pre- dates the Griffins (hockey team),” Cleves said.  “It started operations before the Griffins even dropped the puck.”

And hockey is not a cheap sport, Cleves said the cost per kid, per year is about $500, and the Great Skate, plus activities like Caricature drawings at Winterfest help cover costs for hundreds of local kids, who might not otherwise be able to play.

“The foundation isn’t just about hockey,” said Cleves. “We put a lot of emphasis on academic achievement, community involvement, and healthy lifestyle for these kids.”

To help, all anyone needs to do is bring the family down to Rosa Parks Circle any time from Saturday at noon through Sunday at 10 p.m.

Cleves said whether the temperatures are mild enough to melt the ice, or below freezing , one thing’s for sure – West Michigan always come through.

“Two years ago when I left at two in the morning, it was zero degrees and the wind chill was minus 20 and the ice was packed with skaters,” said Cleves.

Skating is free from 10 p.m. Saturday until 10 p.m. Sunday during the Great Skate.